Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Recommended (for a second time): Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Of The United States. And I give Michelle a copy of it

I’ve always been sceptical when folk talk of something changing their lives, a book, an encounter or whatever it might be, and I am not about to make a similar claim. But a few years ago, I did come across a book which slightly shifted my views on some things. It was A People’s History Of The United States by US historian Howard Zinn.

I have mentioned it before, in a blog post I wrote around six years ago when I first came across the book, but it is worth writing about again because it is a rather different kind of history. Zinn was avowedly and unapologetically left-wing. You can read up a potted biography of him here, but in brief he was a Jew from Brooklyn, the son of two immigrants who had a limited education but for whom Howard’s education was important. When he left school he became an apprentice in a shipyard and because of low pay and conditions there he became active in union politics. But it was World War II which gave him his chance of a good education and to make his way.

He served as a bombardier in the US army air force and after the war got a place at Columbia University through the GI Bill. He gained an MA and then a Phd and began teaching history. And it his take on history which makes him interesting. In his People’s History Of The United States, he criticises histories which view the progress of history from the points of view of kings and those at the top while ignoring the unnamed masses (and I have to say he puts the point far more elegantly).

So he tells the history of the US from the point of view of the indigenous people of the Americas massacred in their millions from the time of Christopher Columbus, of the millions of blacks brought over from Africa to work the land for the whites and the thousands of dirt-poor indentured whites who signed up for a number of years to work in ‘the New World’ in the hope of escaping poverty back home, only to find themselves once again at the bottom of the pile.

Like almost all revolution, the American Revolution which began in 1765 was pretty much a middle/upper class movement of those who resented having to send back much of the money they made ‘in the colony’ back to Britain. And unsurprisingly the great unwashed, the slum-dwellers of the new American cities – for conditions and overcrowding had become as bad in ‘the New World’ – were pretty lukewarm about supporting a revolt in which there was bugger all for them: it simply meant replacing one set of uncaring overlords with another, so why bother?

Now that is not the received view given – as far as I know – to US school children about the genesis of the United States. They – as far as I know – are instructed that the American Revolution was a blow for freedom and intended to throw of the yoke of British tyranny. Zinn disagrees. And I must say I find his interpretation far more convincing, given what I have so far learned of life and seen in my 66 years.

I would not want to give the impression that Zinn’s history of the US is some kind of leftie diatribe, because it is anything but: he writes well and clearly, cites contemporary source material, acknowledges that there are other historians who do not agree with him and, in my view at least, comes across as a man of integrity.

I mention it again (here is my first mention) because circumstance the other night reminded me of it. I have mentioned before that when I drive home to Cornwall from my four days of work in London, I stop of for a drink, a break and a smoke, so far usually at the Brewers Arms in South Petherton, but occasionally at the Taw River Inn in Sticklepath in Devon (which is only 40 miles from home). Because I have been stopping off for some time at both pubs, I have made the acquaintance of several regulars and will pretty much chat to anyone.

I was the Sticklepath pub the other night when I got talking to Michelle, a local probably in her late thirties. We talked this and that for a while before I ventured to ask her something specific. For Michelle is white but has unmistakable Afro-Caribbean features and I was curious. I asked her as tactfully as I could whether she had any Afro-Caribbean heritage. She did: her grandfather, who she never knew, was an black US serviceman who had been stationed locally on the edge of Dartmoor in the run-up to D Day. Her grandmother was a local Devon girl. I can’t now remember whether it was her father or mother who was the offspring of that coupling. Once the serviceman left Devon he never came back. Her other parent was a local.

I stress that I tried, and I hope succeeded, in being as sensitive as possible when I broached the subject and I’m glad I was because Michelle then went on to tell me how, as a young girl she had been teased about her looks at school and although there was nothing of complaint in the way she spoke, it soon became apparent that the teasing and being a little bit different had hurt her when she was growing up.

That is when I thought of Zinn’s book, and I told her about it, and especially of his account of the despicable way ‘freed’ black slaves were treated one the American Civil War ended until – well, as far as I am concerned, until the present day. It

You might perhaps subscribe to the view that all is now
sweetness and light for blacks since they were ‘freed’ after
the American Civil War. Here’s a reminder from the Fifties
that you might well be very wrong indeed

seems to me no coincidence that a disproportionate number of blacks (and now men and women of Latino and Hispanic origin) in the US are in jail, suffer mental health problems and are unemployed. And as Michelle was interested in reading it, I asked her for her address and that night, once I was home, I logged into my Amazon account and bought a copy, to be delivered to her home.

You reading this might have heard of Zinn’s book and you might even have read my previous entry. Either way, if you haven’t read it, I would urge you to do so, as it might change the way you view history as it changed mine.

. . .

I’ve been trying to track down my original post about how I came across Zinn’s book, but I can’t yet find it and it would be simply just to recount the how here again. I was on holiday on Ibiza (which is not all a drug den as many assume) and the weather was terrible: of the two weeks I was there we had innumerable thunderstorms and gallons of rain came pouring down. But I have to say that I didn’t really mind. For one thing I am not the kind who likes to lie gormlessly in the sun, getting red and hot, but also a break is a break is a break and you take it as it comes. If you start getting uptight about things, you’ve pretty much wasted your money taking a break.

The trouble was I had brought nothing to read with me. Wandering around the hotel I noticed a bookshelf in the communal area and went over to investigate it. All I could, at first see, as any number of bodice rippers, historical fictions by women called ‘Amber’ and the usual Jack Higgins crap. But then I noticed a volume which looked thicker than the rest. I pulled it out and took a look: it was Zinn’s A People’s History Of The United States. And I began to read it. I have since re-read it once and ever since sending Michelle a copy I am re-reading it yet again.

Oh, and let me reassure you, I don’t think anyone who knows me has marked me down as some bleeding-heart lefty liberal.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Gomorrah, a few necessary comments. Very necessary comments

After my last entry recommending Gomorrah as a great series to watch, and having watched two more episodes of the first series, I thought it was perhaps a good idea if I added a few comments. OK, Gomorrah is Sky entertainment and I still think it is good. But it is a million miles away from your Sopranos, Goodfellas and the rest where, however ‘brutal’ the guys we are watching are, there is still oddly apparently a modicum of sympathy for them, although a sympathy of a strange kind. Gomorrah is very different indeed. The gangsters portrayed here are not nice, not nice at all. They are scum, each one of them and do not give a tuppenny fuck about others. None is in the slightest bit admirable.

Series of this kind are often described in the TV columns of our national press as ‘gritty’ and so we are able to sit back in the comfort of our own homes to ‘enjoy’ the grit, safe – very, very safe – in the knowledge just how unlike it all is in the home life of our dear queen. But Gomorrah is portraying real misery, real despair, and real unmitigated brutality. Moreover, as far as I know I is a misery and despair and a brutality with which thousands of blameless folk living in the ‘projects’ of Naples have to put up with.

In the episode I have just watched, a rather pleasant though impressionable young lad is suckered by one superficially charming gangster into shooting dead a high up gangster in a rival gang. He is told lies in order to persuade him to do it. Eventually, once he has cottoned on and realises he is about to be bumped off, too, he hides. So the superficially charming gangster then gets hold of his girlfriend, an innocent teenage schoolgirl who also works in a hairdressers and beats her to reveal his whereabouts. She doesn’t know. So our superficially charming gangster beats her to death. When the young lad discovers this and realises he has nowhere to turn, he uses the automatic given him to shoot himself.

None of this is shown in anyway in some kind of TV glamour way. It happens in slums and derelict warehouses. Of glamour there is none. And although it might be fiction it is more documentary. But there is no encouragement whatsoever to feel even the slightest admiration or sympathy with the lowlife scum. That is probably which marks it out so much and makes it so different to US fare. Just thought I’d add that. It shows a truly horrible life.

  PS The lad doesn't kill himsekf. He is murderdd inbtge next episode.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Introducing Gomorrah, the TV series which has taken its place in my heart and which stands head and shoulders with Deadwood, The Sopranos and Damages. And I venture a slightly more personal entry, although I still don’t have the courage to go the whole hog

After I’d seen all six series of the Sopranos twice (and bizarrely the sixth series was in two parts, so maybe there were seven series) as well seeing several of the episodes several times, I’ve long been on the lookout for something to watch on TV which reached its high standards. Sadly, in my view very little of hour homegrown thrillers and series make the mark or get even close, with the very, very notable exception of Peaky Blinders which somehow shook of its Brit roots and was able to challenge other world-class production.

Naturally, I haven’t seen everything on TV (and nor would I want to as I’m firmly of the view that TV rots your brain but am a reasonable chap and accept that a little brain-rotting is not the end of the world) and there are several notable series which I have yet to attempt. A friend as well as my teenage son keep urging me to watch Breaking Bad, and I shall eventually. But much else which his hawked as ‘brilliant’ just hasn’t hit the spot for me.

My brother was a big fan of The Good Wife, and tried it, but I could never quite get into it. Then there was Justified which he also recommended. I tried that, too, but again couldn’t quite catch the bug. One of the things I didn’t particularly like (and admittedly I only saw three or four episodes of each) was how each episode had ‘a story’ as well as the various themes running through like a thread. It reminded me too much of the series we were fed in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, each with the then obligatory end scene in which loose ends were neatly tied up, to be followed by some joke and all the main good guy characters having a laugh together (‘Ah, Cisco.’ ‘Ah, Pancho’ ho, ho, ho.)

In fact. before I go on to mention – I won’t say list because there isn’t that many of them – the series which all in their own original way managed to reach the bar set by The Sopranos, it might help to illuminate exactly what I thought was and is good by listing some of the real losers and also-rans. Of what I have seen and the real losers most certainly Blue Bloods comes top of the list. It is absolutely dire and then some, a real throwback to Seventies productions with all its lack of subtlety, though I won’t, mainly because I can’t be bothered, list the elements which make me think it is total shite.

Then I tried Scandal with the very pretty Kerry Washington (who I first saw in the excrable Django Unchained – it redefined bloody awful in my view as did Tarantino’s earlier Inglourious Basterds) and that, too, was just TV by numbers although I’m bound to admit the clichés have been updated, but they are clichés nonetheless. I seem to remember trying Suits, although looking it up just now in imdb.com it doesn’t sound very familiar. Then there was House Of Lies, which sounded passable on the face of it, but which I really couldn’t warm to.

But rather than make this one long whinge, let me list the series I have thought worthwhile and whose standards were well above average. First off, there has to be Boardwalk Empire about – well, I suppose it has to be gangsters in Prohibition America. As far as I am concerned it oozed from every pore. It did though come to a relatively abrupt end with all the stories needing to be tied up. That final series was eight episodes long instead of 13 and in a curious way did seem rushed.

I read somewhere that Martin Scorsese, one of the executive producers – or simply one of the producers, whichever comes higher up the foodchain, assuming ‘executive’ in this case means ‘the guys and gals who actually do the work’ rather than schmooze around at award ceremonies basking in the glory – lost a bit of interest once he and a certain Mick Jagger (we are now obliged to call him Sir Michael Jagger and genuflect every time we hear Under My Thumb on the radio) managed to get their series Vinyl in production. It purports to portray the early Seventies record label life in New York, but in my view is very curate’s egg, not all bad but not all good, either.

My list of great series can’t, of course, ignore Deadwood, which had all the aces and then some. But that too came to an early end after just three series and no one actually seems to know why. I can’t forget Ray Donovan, either, are at least the first three

series. It stars Liev Schreiber, Paula Malcolmson (who is from Northern Ireland and played a memorable tart in Deadwood) and the inimitable Jon Voight as Mickey, Ray’s utterly incorrigible father who pretty much steals the show every time he appears. It also has Britain’s own Eddie Marsan who proves once again what a great actor he is.

. . .

I think you get the picture: TV might have progressed a little since the days of I Love Lucy and Hawaii Five-O, not least in terms of greater production values, not doubt reflecting the evergrowing mountains of moolah to be made from putting stuff on the googlebox, but it is still pretty much cliché-ridden and pretty much still plays it safe.

As far as I know it was the entry into the market of subscriber services such as HBO and Showtime which partly rewrote the rules of the game, allowing far, far more profane language (and allowing the shows to be far more lifelike), and more open on other fronts.Crucially it also gave writers and directors their heads and they could develop character and plot in a far more relaxed way. This development was further extended by the more recent involvement of Amazon and Netflix, although it has to be said that both tend to play it a lot safer still, no doubt realising that kiddiwinks have pretty much unlimited access to the net.

But all this is leading up to something rather simple: my rave about my latest fave series, the Italian-made Gomorrah. This really is something else. It’s available on Sky and although I quite obviously have no first-hand knowledge of gangs, crime

and Mafioso – or in this case the Camorra – in its depiction of gangsters not as heroes who play by the rules, albeit their own rules, but as thuggish and greedy folk you would never want to meet out on a dark night alone and without a gun rings pretty true. If you have Sky I urge you to watch it. If you don’t, go around to the house of a friend who does.

Since writing the above and then posting it after choosing the piccies, several more great TV series have occurred to me which I rate just as highly as The Sopranos and Deadwood. Well, two more, both from the same stable of writers. They are Damages with the, again inimitable Glenn Close, and Bloodline. If you ever get the chance to see both or either, don’t miss it.

. . .

Incidentally, Ray Donovan has provided me with one of my favourite TV/film quotes. It’s from the teenaged and very impressionable son of Ray Donovan, a fixer in Los Angeles, who is in awe of his dad’s assistant Avi, an Israeli who is said to have learned his tricks when he worked for Mossad. ‘When I grow up,’ the lad tells Avi after witnessing another piece of ‘cool’ action, ‘I want to be a Jew.’ There’s something which rather irritates me about writing this blog. Years ago, many years ago, far more than it seems to me now except that when I do the sums I can work it out – about 36 years ago – I began writing a diary. Well, it wasn’t quite a diary in the usual sense of me detailing what had happened to me during the day or the previous days, but more of a commonplace book in which I would record or comment on whatever I wanted to record or commentate on. I started it off after I read that John Steinbeck wrote to his publisher’s editor that he often found it difficult to get writing in the morning. So his editor suggested that he buy himself a ledger and in that ledger wrote, on the left hand page, pretty much anything he wanted to, and that once he had got into his stride, he could then, on the right hand page carry on writing the novel or the story on which he was engaged. Well, in those days I still thought of myself as a novelist/writer manqué. That I wasn’t writing much, if anything, in the way of fiction are reasoned away as me not being in the habit of writing. (I know it sounds silly, but . . . ) So, I thought to myself, all I had to do was to follow Steinbeck’s publisher’s editor’s advice, buy myself a ledger and, well, start writing. It didn’t, as I’m sure you have gathered, work.

I certainly did keep up the ledger but of ‘real writing work’ there was subsequently an infinitesimally small amount. I did, though, carry on the habit of recording in the ledger whatever I wanted to record or commentate on. I also recorded quotes I came across which amused me. And when the first ledger was full, I bought another. I carried on the practice for the following 14 years, until the year I married, in fact.

I still wasn’t a diary, of course, for who is but one thing I did do was to imagine that one day, some day, it might be read. Why it should be read, I had no idea, but I carried on.

The point was that as there was virtually no likelihood of it ever being read by anyone I could record highly personal matters, and this I did. Fast forward to February 6, 2009, and I began this blog, courtesy of the internet and the concept of blogging. http://pfgpowell-1.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/new-start-unfortunately-after-semi.html (If you read that entry, however, you will see that it was not actually my first blog, but because of a technical hitch I had lost the first few entries of my first blog.

There was, though, a difference between a ‘private’ diary, which, though I hoped would one day be read by those writing the biography of one of Britain’s most famous recent novelists, and my blog. That putative biography I imagined would be written after I had died. the blog, on the other hand, could be read almost immediately, and, more to the point, almost immediately by family and friends. And so I had to be a little circumspect in that I didn’t want to publish in this blog anything which might upset them. It’s called ‘self-censorship’. Thus the whole point or, at least, one of the whole points of ‘keeping a diary’ was lost.

I must admit there are times when I want to write far more personal stuff: reflections on my Roman Catholic upbringing and how it utterly skewed my relations with women (and more to the point meant I had rather fewer shags than I might of done because of that skewed relationship). It meant that I couldn’t record my thoughts about my marriage (I haven’t had sex in almost 18 years), or my children (my daughter eats all kind of crap and is well on the way to getting rather fat and my son’s diet is equally bad), or my friends (one or two of them can be rather irritating on occasion, and I bet that’s got them thinking. Me? No, not you, other friends.). And that is something I rather regret in an odd way. ‘Why not start another blog and don’t make it public’? I hear one or two of you possibly ask. Well, there’s the rub. I can’t see the reason why I should write a blog and not make it public. It’s a conundrum. But I should sometimes like to record rather more personal stuff than I might even now have done. Perhaps I will, and perhaps I shall have the courage to brave the wrath of those closer to me than the strangers who happen upon these scribblings. Pip, pip.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Merkel for the chop? Well, for about five minutes or at last as long as it took you to read a recent Daily Mail story. And ‘the will of the people’: just how bloody inconvenient is it going to become?

Browsing as one does — OK, ‘as I do’ — browsing as one does the Daily Mail online website, I came across this story and it occurred to me I should, perhaps, try to put it into context.

(Incidentally, ‘One does/I do’: I’m still hoping to persuade the many doubters that I do, indeed, have a college degree, though an ordinary MA awarded by Dundee University in 1972, not the Honours degree in English and philosophy I sat for, I did so appallingly badly in English, but (I’m told) so reasonably well in philosophy that when the English department insisted I would get an Honours degree over their combined dead body, the philosophy department countered that insisting that I should get a degree of sorts as I had, at least, done them proud. So the compromise was an ordinary degree. Oh, and the Scottish MA is the equivalent of the English BA.)

On the face of it and going by the Mail’s story you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that one Angela Merkel can expect her P45 in the post any day now and will have to reconcile herself to taking up a supply teaching post in chemistry in Baden-Baden or whatever it is sacked German chancellors do. The truth is most certainly a little different and tells us more about the working practices of our esteemed Fourth Estate than the mood of the German electorate. (Later: here is a more recent story. Obviously the newsdesk apparatchik responsible is getting into his/her stride.)

OK Germany, too, has its nutters in the form of Pegida (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) and, latterly, the AfD which has become far more right-wing and rapid since its original coterie of rather more restrained
academics and sensible businessmen and journalists was ousted several years, but they still form a rather tinier proportion of Germany’s movers and shakers than the Mail’s headline and story might seem to indicate.

The story goes on to cite the ostensibly startling statistic that 83 per cent of all Germans would like to see duskier fellow citizens shown the door with a flea in their ear and the stern admonition not ever to be seen again on European soil peddling their tales of famine and genocide, but even that, apparently copper-bottomed fact should be taken with a pinch of salt.

For example, if I had the money to commission a survey on, I don’t know, the abuse of toothbrushes, and consulted the usual random sample of 1,100 folk willing to be approached by a stranger with a clipboard, I reckon I could prove at least 25 per cent – a 'startling one in five' sounds more dramatic - believe that ‘toothbrushes get a raw deal and it's time the government did something about it’.

The modus operandi from here to the outer reaches of the solar system is simple: as a rule news is inconveniently erratic and makes the job of a paper’s news editor and his staff a trial. It is, for example, only now and again that some nutter drives an artic through innocent holidaymakers on a Nice seafront promenade or takes a Glock pistol to the nearest Munch McDonald's and tries to kill everyone in sight. On those days when nutters around the world haven’t obliged, news has to be ‘developed’ and this is what I suspect went on at Mail Online.

The word went out to some stringer or other in Germany to go out onto the street and ask as many folk as you can whether they think in view of her more charitable attitude to refugees and Merkel is a total loser shitbag and should be shot. Oh, Mr Stringer will be told, and take your camera and ask the prettier ones whether you can take their picture. Assuring them - the prettier ones - that their photo will be displayed on a leading newspaper website accessible from anywhere in the world and you're in there with a chance.

Hence the story: ‘Angela, your time is up’. That should keep the readers in ready-made opinions for at least a day, and don’t be surprised if when you mosey down to your local tomorrow and are buttonholed by the leading pub bore he – it’s always a he, sadly – assures you that ‚‘that Merkel, she’ll be gone by next week’. Then with a sage wink, he’ll tell you why Ian Botham was the greatest cricketer ever to play for England, and, yes, he will have another pint, thank you very much.

So what is ‘the truth?’ Well, I don’t know and nor do you. The fact is that in a matter of about four months the western world and its certainties has been turned well and truly upside-down, and things are really not looking very grand at all.

To put things in perspective, a little common sense is necessary: about one million folk have arrived in Europe from the Middle East and North Africa over the past 16 months and, putting aside whether you think they are entitled to come or not, whether they are genuine refugees or merely folk doing what the rest of us are continually being exhorted to do, namely to make the best of things and to get on in life. In our case — for us white honkeys, that is, all, no doubt, descended from a long line of stout-hearted folk from Devon/the Black Country/Northumberland/Derbyshire or wherever, getting on as a rule comes down to kissing the right arse or schmoozing the right town hall functionary. (Some also get on in life through intelligence, hard work and natural ability, of course, but let’s not cloud the issue unnecessarily.)

In the case of the refugees it has meant uprooting yourself, your and your family several thousands dollars to pay some scumbag for a place in an overloaded lilo, then heading off into the unknown many thousand miles away in the hope of a better life, one where you aren’t periodically hit by famine and hunted down by genocidal idiots. But at the end of the day they are just doing what countless folk have done throughout recorded history and earlier. And I for one can’t blame them.

Undoubtedly quite a number, maybe 500, maybe 1,000, maybe 3,000 wrong ’uns joined the trek to Europe with evil on their minds, but a as proportion of the total number of migrants their number is infinitessimal (i.e. ridiculously small. I thought I’d better add that because I’m not too sure how to spell infinitessimal).

Then there’s the pertinent point that not the Nice murderer, not the lone gunman in Munich and not the two teenagers in Normandy who stabbed to death a priest were ‚‘immigrants’. But that will not mean very much to the several thousands who are just waiting for an excuse to vote, for example in France, for Marine Le Pen. That will mean very little to the millions in the US who are just itching to vote for Trump ‚‘because he’s not a politician‘. The will point to the goings on in Europe and how a million folk have arrived from the Middle East and North Africa and tell themselves ‚‘Yes, of course, we should build a wall to keep those bloody Mexicans out‘.

. . .

The big dilemma for us wet liberal types is, of course, the ‘will of the people’. It makes sense for we wet liberal types to applaud democracy as the will of the people when ‘the people’ do the right thing according to our wet liberal principles, but we find ourselves in an awful pickle when the will of the people contradicts them.

Turkey is a case in point: the nutter Erdogan (who is, of course, not a nutter at all but a very astute bastard) has substantial popular support. Sadly, that support is not among the metropolitan elite in the smarter westernised suburbs of Istanbul and Ankara where wet liberal principles feel well at home, but in the poor rural districts and the poorer parts of Turkey’s cities.

The comparison has been made, not least by me in a previous post, of the democratic rise to power of Erdogan and the – more or less – democratic rise to power of one Adolf ‚‘Moustache of the Month’ Hitler. It was the will of the people who put them both in power. It might well be the will of the people who put Trump in power and next year Marine Le Pen. It was the will of the people which decided that Britain should get the bloody hell out of the EU.

Is there a moral get-out clause which says the ‘will of the people’ should always be paramount, but only until it decides to do something which we wet liberals disagree with and must then be discounted? Is an immutable principle only an immutable principle while it suits us? To put it anotehr way: can a women really, in some circumstances, only be a little bit pregnant?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

OK, so which of the current stooges (one’s now dead) will cause the most havoc for us before breakfast? My money’s on Erdogan – Trump hasn’t yet grown a moustache

This blogger likes to think he is not much given to hyperbole. Perhaps he is wrong. But watching Donald Trump strut the stage in Cleveland at the Republican convention at which he was nominated (if, of course, any man alive an actually aurally strut a stage) and hearing about Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring a state of emergency in Turkey, allowing himself and his cabinet (though I think we can safely assume it will at the end of the day be himself) pass laws without the say-so of the Turkish parliament, one does wonder whether comparisons with the rise of Hitler are all that fanciful.

Yes, any hack worth his salt has already pointed out that Hitler also came to power – more or less – democratically. I say more or less because a little skulduggery and bending of the rules did go on. And every hack worth his salt has quoted Erdogan’s ominous description of democracy of (I paraphrase, of course) a train from which one can get off once one has got to where one wants to get to. Erdogan most certainly came to power democratically and if – a long shot, of course, but it is possible – Trump is elected president of the United States, it, too, will be with a democratic mandate. But comparing the two, I think we have more to fear from Erdogan than Trump.

Trump is, in my book at least, a buffoon, a kind of American Boris Johnson without the Latin. Neither, I suspect, has had an original thought in their lives. Erdogan, on the other hand is not, stupid (and I don’t think Johnson is stupid, either, just a buffoon whose one idea is how to make Boris Johnson a figure of history. The man, apparently, already thinks of himself as a latter-day Churchill.) But Trump, if he is elected, will still have to contend with a Congress which will not necessarily be inclined to do his bidding if his bidding is patently utterly daft. And more to the point, I don’t doubt the US has a fully functioning civil service, the lads and lasses who do all the donkey work, who will gladly stick a spanner in the works if needs be by they simple expedient, in true civil service style, of slowing everything down. (I must, though, admit here that I know bugger all about the US civil service and maybe I am just whistling in the wind.)

Where Trump could do a lot of damage is by creating uncertainty, and he has already taken a step or two along that path by suggesting the the US would not necessarily come to the aid of a Nato ally when threatened (by the Soviet Union – sorry, Russia) if it feels that ally hasn’t been pulling its weight in the organisation. Putin and China must have cheered when they heard that and I don’t doubt there is and will be any number of Russian and Chinese spooks patriolling the highways and byways of the US urging its citizens to vote for Donal J Trump and make America great again.

The man’s speech to the convention was a textbook case of vacuous political bombast: apparently he’s going to put and end to crime and violence in the US. That does make me wonder what America’s law enforcement agencies have been trying to do all these years when they found themselves with a little time on their hands while not roaming the streets hunting down blacks to shoot dead. (Cheap shot, I know, but I couldn’t resist it.) And I do wonder how a man who doesn’t believe in gun control feels ‘ending violence’ will be such a cinch.

In the event, of course, few expect Trump to be beat Hillary Rodham Clinton to the White House. But then few expected the British people in the ‘should we, shouldn’t stick it to the EU?’ referendum to vote to return to the Fifties and the era when the ordinary man in the street could hate foreigners with pride. But they did. (Incidentally, what does the ‘ordinary man in the street’ actually look like? Am I one? Is he bald? Is he a little bit gay? Is he a fan of Cliff Richard?

We do know, thanks to the referendum of four weeks ago exactly today, that he – the British man in the street that is – isn’t fussed whether his food tastes of shit, talks about shagging more than he actually does it, thinks the safest place to keep your money in France is underneath the soap and that all Germans go to bed in their jackboots. Oh, and central heating is for wimps: if keeping out the cold be slavering goose fat all over his body of a morning was good enough for his great-grandfather, by jingo it’s good enough for him.)

As for Clinton, well from where I sit she has the one advantage over Trump in not being quite as stupid. But watch she makes up in intelligence, she squanders wholly in dishonesty: from where I sit the choice between Trump and Clinton is pretty much analogous to choosing between bowel cancer or stomach cancer.

Erdogan, of course, is very much a different threat. Quite what the man wants I really can’t fathom. Is it just power? Does he have a vision for the future of Turkey which is so difficult to achieve that it necessitates him having dictatorial powers unencumbered by a parliament. I really don’t know and I suspect you don’t, either.

To get to the point of this ramble (which for originality must compare favourably with our Sunday newspapers which do very little by precis the previous six days daily newspapers, then advise on what aftershave to wear when you are off to the timeshare in the Dordogne - readers of the more downmarket Sunday papers must


look elsewhere for relevant persiflage – what, exactly, do the next 30 years hold for our young? I have a 20-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son for whom what happens in the coming 30 and 40 years is rather important. And if Trump fucks things up for the rest of the world by making America great again, and if Erdogan pretty much screws up the Middle East for the next 100 years, their prospects of peaceful prosperity will be rather curtailed.

Actually, I don’t know what to think. To be honest, I’m wondering whether I’m simply beginning to suffer from the condition with seems to affect everyone getting on in years that ‘the world is going to the dogs’. I’ve been trying to recall world situations from when I was 20, 30, 40 and 50 and just how bloggers (or their steam age equivalents) reacted to ‘world events’. The trouble is I can’t. To put it succinctly, am I just more pessimistic because I am simply more aware of world events or are things really going rather worse than they were in recent memory? And to be honest I don’t actually think they are worse: in a certain mood they always are awful, so, dear reader, look on the bright side. Like me you might well be dead be 2030. Which brings me onto global warming, but fuck it, I’m to tired to ramble on anymore. Pip, pip