Friday, July 31, 2015

An irony and there will be more once I get my act together and survive easyjet flight 5020 from Bordeaux to Londres

If I were not acquainted with irony – and I am, we are good friends of long standing – what has been going on today would have been a good introduction.

This was my fourth, possibly even my fifth, stay in Illats accompanying my elderly step-aunt to various concerts held in chateaux hereabouts and departing and flying home has always followed the same routine: train from Cerons, a few miles from where she lives, then the Navette bus from the Gare de St Jean to Bordeaux airport, then the flight home with Easyjet. Today’s journey should have been no different except that when I checked the rail timetable to make sure I hadn’t ‘misremembered’ (©Hillary Rodham Clinton) what time my train was and checked the timetable of the Navette, I realised that if I caught the 9.50 from Cerons as planned, I would get to the airport to make my way through security just in time to miss the plane by about ten minutes. And the rail timetable listed no earlier train except one leaving Cerons at 6.50 (far, far to early for anyone to do anyting remotely useful).

When I told my aunt, she said she would drive me to the airport. As she has, in the past nine months, had a knee operation and surgery to cure ‘a woman’s problem’, I was reluctant but could see no alternative. Then it struck me that I might be able to catch a train from Lango, several miles further away than Cerons, but a far better option of my aunt.

There a train departed for Bordeaux at 8.44. We set off on the 20 minute journey to Langon from Illats just before 8pm and arrived with ample time to spare and I caught the train (which was a little late) and that should have been that. But I was very surprised when the very next stop, barely five minutes down the line to Bordeaux was bloody Cerons. So I could have caught the same train and spared my aunt a little hassle. I have since re-checked the timetable I originally looked at and that departure is not listed. But I have also checked the official SNCF timetable and it is.

Not much of an irony, you might now be telling yourselves, and what is this crud banging on about? Well, it is this: not only did I, unlike previously when ‘security’ was jam-packed with Brits in shorts with red legs and their breeds and the whole experience took what seemed like hours – not, only did I breeze through this time, but the bloody flight, due to leave at 12.05 is fucking ‘delayed’. And no one knows until when. So I could have stuck to the original plan with ease.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Who was Alroy Kear? Well, while you’re finding out, let me tell you about my fourth culture vulture visit to south-west France

Who was Alroy Kear? Well, if I’m not 100pc certain, I’m at least 99.9pc certain that no one knows what they hell I’m on about. But I do, and in this case that’s all that matters.

. . .

‘Who’s paying for this lunch?’

‘Well, if we don’t publish you, we are. If we do, you will be.’

I had been warned and I appreciated my companion’s candour. I told her that I wasn’t very hungry and ordered the pasta tuna. It had a rather more impressive name on the menu but I know pasta tuna when pasta tuna is offered.

‘Red or white?’

‘Well, as I’m having tuna I suppose it should be the white. And just a glass, please.’

She smiled, the smile of a professional who had eaten many such lunches.

‘Don’t stint yourself. I’ve got little on this afternoon and I’m off tomorrow and who knows, we’ll probably not publish you, so go for it. We might as well have a bottle. I could do with more than a glass. Are you going to have a starter? I am.

 I wasn’t persuaded, but all in all this wasn’t my shout. I ordered a starter. Of every book published, nine out of ten are non-fiction. Of every book of fiction published nine out of ten make no money. Of every book of fiction considered for publication another nine or ninety or nine hundred or quite possibly nine thousand submitted are ignored as just so much dreck. So, whether I would be footing the bill for lunch or not, I had so far got just a little further than most. A little. Not much. My companion, a woman in her forties who had her charms once I had finished my first glass and was well into my second, knew her job.

‘You’ve called your novel Who Was Alroy Kear? Why, exactly?’

‘Are you familiar with the name?’

‘No.’

I began to explain. ‘He’s a fictional character invented by. . .’

‘Well, I don’t suppose it matters much, and be ready for marketing to insist on another title if they don’t like it. I should tell you that it’s a hard market and it’s getting harder every year, and what they say goes. What’s your story about?’

‘Have you read it’

‘I’m afraid I haven’t, no, but don’t let that bother you, we have some very good editors and they have, and if they think there’s something in it for us, if they think it has possibilities . . .’

She trailed off. ‘Who do you read?’

‘All sorts,’ I told her.

‘Well, all sorts doesn’t help much, does it? Have you read any Ooja Kanago or Paul Moore?’

‘No.’

‘Well, they’re selling very well at the moment and it’s the kind of thing we’re looking for. Are you gay?’

‘No. Should I be?’

‘No, not really, but it does seem to help, though marketing won’t insist, of course.’

Her mobile rang.

‘Sorry, I’ve got to take this.’ She answered. ‘Where are you? Well, don’t bother with that now, I’m quite busy. What is it?’ The other party spoke. She replied. ‘Well, she has got one down at the cottage and apparently the broadband is on again. And if it isn’t she’ll just have to live with it. Is Julian coming or staying up in London with Sasha?’ The other party spoke. ‘Well, tell him to make his mind up. Anyway, can we do this another time, I’m in a meeting. I’ll ring you at four. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind getting away at five.’ She ended her call.

‘Sorry about that. What was I saying?’

‘You asked me if I was gay.’

‘And are you?’

‘No. But my brother is.’

‘Well, that’s neither here nor there, is it.’

. . .

Illats, day three.

This is, I think, my fourth annual trek to this neck of the woods in what is sometimes called Aquitane, sometimes Les Landes and sometimes just Bordeaux, by which folk who call it that (as I do when people ask ‘where are you going to in France) mean the area south of the city which is also called Bordeaux. I come to accompany my aunt – my stepmother’s sister, but I think of here as my aunt – to a series of concerts put on by various chateaux as part of the Rencontres Musicales Internationales des Graves (which means Very Serious Musical Encounters, though as I don’t speak any French – as I ‘have no French’ – I might well have got that a little wrong).

Regular readers of this ‘ere blog might be familiar with my annual excursions to this part of France at this time of year, and I must add that I enjoy them a lot in as far as although I’m a really, really cool cat who doesn’t only like jazz but J Blackfoot, Alexander O’Neal, Lisa Ekdahl, Pink and Pretty Reckless (none too contemporary, I’m afraid), I also like almost all kinds of classical music except sodding German romantic stuff from the mid to late 19th century, which, as I get older makes me feel like puking rather quicker than a pound of full-cream fudge.

The first concert was on Thursday at the Chateau Latour-Martillac, and on the bill – is it OK to use the phrase ‘on the bill’ when talking about classical music? – a sonata for violin and piano by a Russian call Anton Tanonov, Brahms second string quintet and finally the ‘concert’ for piano and string quartet by Ernest Chausson, a chap who is apparently very well-known except by me. The Tanonov piece, very modern and very squeaky, was fair enough and although I have a strange liking for what I was once told is often called ‘squeaky gate music’, it didn’t do a great deal for me, though I didn’t hate it either. The Brahms, a new one on me, I liked. And I also like the Chausson. (Incidentally, he died rather young, at 44, in a bicycle accident – he rode into a wall. True – look it up.)

Last night’s concert, though was something else. It was at the Chateau Doms, just down the road in Portets, and all three pieces were memorable. The first, by a Uri Brener was the kind of squeaky gate music I can’t get enough of (as opposed to Mr Tanonov’s and don’t ask me what I preferred the one to the other, but I did).

Then came Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G Minor, opus 57, and that, dear friends, was spot-on. It sounds daft to put it that way, and again I’m told it’s very ‘well-known’ but not by me, but I’m
glad I came across it and have already bought it from Amazon. Finally, we got Schubert’s string quartet Death And the Maiden, which I have heard before several times but don’t ever mind hearing again. (Sad, sad note: just looked it up on Wikipedia and it seems he wrote it after he came out of a serious illness and realised he was dying so, you know, blah, blah. Altogether now: aahh!, though I trust folk won’t be quite as viciously flippant when the time comes for me to knock, knock, knock on Heaven’s door.)

Apart from that I’m enjoying good food and pleasant weather. Whereas, it seems Old Blighty has already had its two and a half days of fine weather this summer, here in the South-West of France the temperature is warm, in the mid-twenties, and sunny. They had just emerged from a heatwave the day before I arrived and we’re told another heatwave is on its way, but I’ll cope with that as and when. Pip, pip.

Oh, I hope you enjoy the snippet I started this entry off with. With a bit of luck – i.e. hard work – there’s another 69,410 words to go. And I do actually plan to call it Who Was Alroy Kear?, though marketing might well have other ideas. (Alroy Kear? Look it up. It is obscurely relevant, though you will never guess how and why.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The day Britain awoke to hear the shocking news that the Queen likes to goose-step of an evening. Or not as the case may be. Meanwhile, sadly not for the first time, I sail a little close to the wind

In that magic way we hacks have of skittering from topic to topic (and my innate modesty prevents me from excluding myself from that sorry bunch) rather as a butterfly will set off in one direction for a few seconds, change its mind and head of at a 90 degree tangent, before, seconds later, following an entirely new course, the most recent crises de nos jours have swiftly been abandoned in favour of the latest outrage. And that, of course, is as it should be: experience has taught us that the newspaper-reading public has an attention span rather shorter than that of my butterfly and becomes swiftly bored. And no paper dare take. Lord no!

(The honourable exception here in Britain is, possibly, the saintly Guardian which does seem to take its duty of informing the public just a little more seriously, but as, according to May’s circulation figures, it is these days informing as few as 178,758 readers in a nation of more than 64.6 million – not that a large proportion of them can actually read - a shift in strategy is arguable long overdue.) So whereas for a short while the abject horrors perpetuated by IS (ISIL, Islamic State or Daesh – the choice is yours) were the latest disaster to threaten humankind, the obduracy of the left-wing Greek government in refusing to execute a is pensioners in the face of overwhelming European Union demands and how it was increasingly likely to lead to global collapse soon proved to be a sexier story.

That one lasted the best part of a week, before it, too, was shown the door and a new topic likely to outrage the Great British Public was adopted. And what an outrage that has turned out to be! Apparently, as a seven-year-old our dear, dear Queen and her younger sister Margaret gave the Nazi salute! Well! And to add to the calumny their mother, for many, many years the nation’s favourite granny, did the same! Well! Could it get worse!

Well, not according to the Sun which ‘broke the story’. Further details of just how treacherous our royal family, in fact, were and, obviously, still are, included not just that not a single drop of English blood flows through their veins (though we all knew that), but the Queen has long hidden a secret passion for Sauerkraut and Charles, her son and heir apparent has all 17 verses of the Horst Wessel Lied tattooed on his bum! No wonder Princess Di got shot of the Nazi swine toot sweet.

Sadly for the Sun its scoop, trailed by the paper as ‘of genuine historic significance) lasted barely 90 minutes before the public got bored and the other papers immediately scented blood. Within two hours the story was no longer just on earth has the Queen managed to hide her National Socialists sympathies for so long – at least for all the papers that weren’t the Sun – but just what complete plonkers the Sun were. That was the fluff. Rather more interesting as far as I am concerned was that the photograph of Brenda, Maggie and Cookie raising their arms to give the salute was taken after they were coaxed to do so by their uncle, the then King of England, one Edward VIII (pictured).

David’s fascist sympathies had long been suspected by Stanley Baldwin, who a few years later became Britain’s Prime Minister. And when the hullabaloo over David marrying Wallis Simpson erupted, it is more than tempting to assume that when he engineered Edward VIII’s abdication, he had rather more delicate matters in mind rather than whether or not the King should marry his best shag yet. (Incidentally, it was Simpson who nicknamed Cookie Cookie, and thereby earned herself the Cookie’s lifelong enmity, an enmity which ensured David and Wallis, by then the Duke and Duchess of Windsor would never be allowed to touch British soil ever again.)

To ensure Edward VIII, by then the Duke of Windsor, who with Wallis had made a pilgrimage to Berchtesgarden to meet Hitler in 1937, would never be able even to try to influence Britain’s attitude


to Hitler and Nazi Germany, in 1940 he and Wallis dispatched to the Bahamas where the Duke became its governor for the duration of World War II.

As for the Sun somehow coming across the picy of the Queen, Margaret and their mother giving the Nazi salute, I suggest that it is a measure of how, in this instance, the Sun simply lost the plot by publishing them as it did. A different treatment with an appropriate story would still have allowed publication, but the paper would have avoided the pile of shit currently being poured all over it. Such a story might well have been something along the lines of how ‘evil Uncle David even managed to pervert the minds of his innocent young nieces by conning them into giving the Nazi salute’ but thank goodness ‘clever Mr Baldwin was aware of his devilish tricks and got rid of him as King!’ Job done: pics could have been published and the Sun would possibly have remained on the Queen’s Christmas card list. As it is . . .

The little tinkers, eh?

. . .

Me, I’m off on my travels again. Now that the dreaded 65 has passed and I can call it a day just as soon as I like – well could, as I have a 19-year-old at college and a 16-year-old who, I trust will also go to college – I am taking it just a little bit easier than I have so far been taking it easy. Next Wednesday, it’s off to Bordeaux again to act as my aunt’s walker to various concerts for a week.

Then it’s back to work, before on August 12 I – and my son – are off to the back of beyond in Ostfriesland for a week to see whether German lager really is better than the panther piss served up in Old Bligty. (OK, I know it is, but I just want to reassure myself.) Then at the beginning of September it’s off to the back of beyond in Castellon to visit my old potter friend. I shall, of course, be filing regular updates and reports of my sojourns, so you can all breathe again.

I should, however, in the interest of balance, report that I sailed a little close to the wind last week at work when, a little more under the cosh than usual (though as an excuse that cuts no ice at all on a newspaper) I was – well, the word used was ‘abrasive’ with a young female colleague in a separate department. Sadly, over the years this was not the first time, so this time it was not just a bollocking from my chief sub (who I do actually both like and rate – I want to make that clear should she ever happen upon this ‘ere blog) but a short interview with one of our two managing editors.

He was, as it turned out, as nice as pie about it all and told me that although he and his fellow managing editor are regularly roasted – abrased? – by our esteemed editor a Mr Paul D. (who can teach the world a thing or two about being abrasive, I should in future restrict my abrasion to more senior hacks and leave the younger ones who might not yet be as acclimatised to ‘the working environment’ – not his words, however – in peace. Point taken, especially as I suspect he would not be quite as nice as pie were my abrasion to resurface. I might be stupid, but I’m not daft.

Incidentally, Mr Paul D. and I are both Scorpios. In fact, he is just a year and a week older than me. But as he earns well north of £1 million a year, has an estate in Scotland, a villa somewhere in the West Indies, is over 6ft tall and regularly dines with the Prime Minister, there, sadly the resemblance ends. Also I suspect at the end of the day he is a better journalist than I could ever hope to be. Here endeth the lesson (and, I trust, a lesson I have finally learned – see above for notes on the two younger members of the Powell family who are yet to be fully educated and who still rely on my bringing in the shekels.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Your truth? My truth? At the end of the day truth doesn’t matter when the house is burning down. And will the euro and the EU survive? (Who said ‘who cares’?)

There are a great many slippery concepts in philosophy, whether your philosophical discoursing is taking place in a university seminar from undergraduate to PhD level or whether you choose instead to operate at pub bore level. By the phrase ‘slippery concept’ I mean those words, notions and ideas which we all think we understand but which, when we home in on them, when, for example we are asked ‘to define’ them seem to disappear before our eyes.

One of those words ideas is ‘the truth’. We all think we know what the truth is but I suggest we can’t, none of us, because ‘the truth’ doesn’t actually exist. That is not to say that some things – by no means all – cannot be ‘true’ or ‘false’. If I turn the light on in my living room, it is certainly ‘true’ that the light has been turned on. But ‘being true’ and ‘being false’ are pretty far removed from any notion of what ‘the truth’ might essentially be.

I must admit that I wasn’t the most diligent student and that most of my ‘philosophical knowledge’ is pretty threadbare – although that doesn’t necessarily mean I am unqualified to deal with some questions, mainly because the questions themselves if not the answers are very simple indeed.

The body of my ‘knowledge’ consists of half-remembered ‘facts’ from my college tutorials and seminars and scraps I’ve scavenged listening to folk far brighter than me. But that isn’t necessarily a drawback. Even if you happen to have overheard that it is very unwise to put diesel into the tank of a petrol engine and weren’t actually party to the discussion, not putting diesel into the tank of a petrol engine is certainly very wise.

One of the scraps I scavenged was Soren Kierkegaard’s notion of ‘subjective truth’. It was his attempt to get a little closer to the conundrum that at the end of the day ‘the truth’ doesn’t actually exist. Kierkegaard (if I got it right) suggested that ‘subjective truth’ was what was ‘true for me or you personally’. So, in a political discussion one side, on the Left, might claim that the truth was that the bankers and capitalist classes were intent on destroying the ‘ordinary working man’. Not so, his opponent, on the Right, might declare: the real truth is that socialism is always bound to fail because of human nature.

Whichever side you agree with will define which of those statements is ‘the truth’ for you. Both would seem to be mutually exclusive (and admittedly my example is not the best) in that if one is ‘true’, the other isn’t, irrespective of your preferred truth. (It has just occurred to me that I might even question ‘the truth’ of the statement that ‘both are mutually exclusive, but here is neither the time nor the place to get overly complicated. My brain is beginning to ache as it is.)

. . .

So what is the ‘truth’ about the situation in Greece? Did ‘the feckless Greeks bring it down on themselves and only have themselves to blame’? Or is the ‘truth’ of the matter – or rather one ‘truth’ of the matter – that the bigger countries in the Eurozone have used the Greek debt crisis simply as a means to restore the health of their big banks which took a blast after the financial crash of six years ago? Is it, as one Syriza MP has claimed, at heart a battle ‘over democracy in the EU being waged between Europe’s middle class and its working class? [Syriza is a left-wing party]? You pays your money and takes your choice.

My attitude is that when a house is on fire, you don’t sit around working out why the house is now burning to the ground and who might be responsible for the blaze, you concentrate all your efforts on damping down and extinguishing the fire or, if that is impossible, salvaging what you can from the burning house before it collapses in on itself. So with the situation in Greece. And that situation is dire, awful, terrible.

For anyone who might not be up to speed on what is going on: after Greece joined the Eurozone, it took adavantage of the low interest rate charged throughout the zone to borrow as though there were no tomorrow. (One of the claims made – someone’s truth – is that although the European Central Bank, which administers the euro, is charged with being fair to all member states, it quietly fixed the interest rate at a low level to help out Germany which at the time was having a rather torrid time economically after the re-unification of East and West. The claim is that other Eurozone economies, ones suffering from higher inflation, for example, might well have benefited from a higher rate.

The fact is that interest rates were low and on the strength of that Greece borrowed like there was no tomorrow. And furthermore it didn’t use the money it was getting to fund infrastructure, but simply to pay its day-to-day bills. The crunch came when the world found itself in the middle of the 2009 financial crash and Greece and her banks needed to be bailed out. That’s really when it all kicked off. Since then ‘the Greek situation’ has lurched from bad to worse, culminating in the total fuck-up we Europe is now in. Here is today’s front-page online headline from the Telegraph. For


 once a newspaper isn’t particularly over-egging the pudding. Greece’s former finance minister Yani Farouvakis (who resigned before the latest round of ‘negotiations’ last Sunday – my quote marks might give you a hint at which particular truth about them I subscribe to – has warned of the resurgence of Golden Dawn, Greece’s exceptionally nasty extreme right-wing party of thugs and morons.

Incidentally, Britain is not a member of the euro for the very trivial reason that our former prime minster Tony Blair wanted us to join, so his chancellor Gordon Brown, who my then loathed Blair, vetoed the move. That’s it. That insignificant piece of petty spite has been Britain’s saving grace in this whole disaster. Where France would have been liable to lose a whopping €65 billion had Greece reneged on its debts and left the Eurozone, Britain would have been given a pass.

As I write (at 8.25 on the morning of Tuesday, July 14) the Greek parliament is due to meet and pass laws which are necessary for ‘more talks on a further bailout’ to begins. And passing those laws would mean accepting the EU’s conditions, one of which is that a substantial amount of its public assets would be sold off and the money used to help pay off its debts. To be blunt, Greece is being dictated to like an errant fifth-former and that, if nothing, else would seem to make it pretty likely that it’s all going to end in tears and civil unrest.

. . .

That, as I see it is the situation now, and for the time being the ‘truth’ of who is responsible for the EU arriving at this point is irrelevant. Quite apart from the situation in Greece, what does all this mean for the euro and the future of the Eurozone?

Well, once again, you pays your money and you makes your choice. There are some, the euro zealots who still insist that it will all come good in the end, that the current ongoing crisis – ongoing, that is, for the past six years, but there you go – are simply the growing pains of a new system. It all had to happen in time and the faith the Eurozone members have in the system will eventually see it through. Then there are people like me who think the zealots are whistling in the wind and kidding on no one but themselves.

Right from the outset I – most certainly no trained economist – was more persuaded by the idea that the euro system was badly thought out, badly constructed and would eventually burn and crash. The argument was that until and unless all members were part of one fiscal system with their economies guided by one central authority (which would imply ‘ever closer political union’) which would set an optimal interest rate for the whole Eurozone, it would all end in tears. The doubters were derided. Now, it seems, they have been proved correct.

So as far as I’m concerned the Eurozone, in its present form, is a dead duck. It cannot be resurrected. Too much trust has been lost. And what of the EU itself? Will that survive unscathed? Good question. And the answer is ‘yes, it will survive’, but it will bear the scars of the current crisis and can never be the same again. For we have seen, for better or worse – and (see above) which it is depends on your particular ‘truth’ – Germany wield its power. And that makes many uncomfortable, although not me. I have longed tired of all the bollocks spoken that ‘the EU is just another attempt by Germany to dominate Europe’ and other such crap and as I am half-German and know Germany and its people to a certain extent, I can assure any undecided that continental domination is not on Germany’s agenda.

I shall make this point, however: two of Germany’s national failings is a stubborn inflexibility and a somewhat two-dimensional imagination (which might explain why they make great cars but don’t actually design great cars). They happen, in my view (i.e. my ‘truth’) to be quiet right on practical housekeeping matters and the very idea of ‘muddling through’ is anathema to them. The trouble is that when, as here in the handling of the euro crisis they are wrong, it is bloody difficult to impossible to shift them from their position. And that rather two-dimensional imagination stops them from seeing the virtues of alternative solutions.

As it is the original notion of a ‘European Union of equals’ has already gone out of the window in many ways. Once each member state more or less had an equal say in all matters. Now their say is tailored to how big they are, which most certainly gives the big beasts an adavantage. Where one decisions had to be unanimous, they now need only an 85pc majority. And I would be very surprised if, despite all the talk of equality, some of the original members didn’t rather look down on new members as Johnny Come Latelys who don’t quite cut the mustard I am all in favour of an EU as a trading bloc and then some, but really do draw the line at ‘ever closer political union’.

It’s not that I don’t like the idea in theory, I think that given just how different are the cultures of EU member states – well demonstrated with this business over Greece – it really is all pie in the sky. Britain is at present in the process of renegotiating the terms of its membership. Before the current phase of the Greek crisis that looked like a rather soulless and fruitless experience and the likelihood that Britain would vote to leave not at all small. Britain now has a far stronger hand with many other members, shocked by the goings on of this last week, agreeing with Old Blighty that reform is very much needed. The question is: will the EU functionaries – the unelected EU functionaries – in Brussels play fair or not? I doubt it.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thin-skinned or what? I join Taylor Swift in being removed from the Cupertino Christmas card list. As for the euro, what next? It sure ain’t going to end in laughter, a song and a kiss

Now here’s a rather telling story.

Apple (Apple - remember Apple? Apparently before he died Steve Jobs was reputed by many Apple queens to be able to walk on water) have introduced ‘Apple Music’ to take on Spotify. It was launched last week, but even before its launch it got itself into a spot of bother in what I am beginning to regard as typical high-handed Apple fashion.

To make its putative Spotify-killer app as attractive as possible, punters who sign up get a ‘three-month free trial’, i.e. they get the service for free for three months. What we, the public, didn’t know until one Taylor Swift (‘a popular singing artist, m’lud, rather like Dorothy Squires, whose tunes I’m sure m’lud would have whistled in his younger days, except that Taylor Swift is still alive’) said she wasn’t playing along was that Apple had decided to have its cake and eat it: while punters were enjoying their free trial (and would, presumably, carry on using the service, swelling Apple’s coffers by another few million every few hours), the artists whose music they were enjoying would not be paid royalties. That was the law as laid down by St Steven Jobs’s spirtual successor at Cupertino.


You don’t believe! St Steve speaks


So, the admirable Ms Swift told Apple to stick that one up their kilt: if you don’t pay me, you don’t get to use my music. And it seems Ms Swift was not alone in being pretty pissed off with Apple’s arrogance: other artists supported her and Apple backed down (for more or less the first time since records began). On the day Apple Music was launched, Apple also released an IoS update for iPhones and iPads and alerted by a small red ‘1’ on the settings button, I downloaded it. That was a big mistake. The Apple Music facility is to be accessed through the IoS’s new Music app, you know, they one which allows you to listen to all the music on your iPhone or iPad. And that, my dear’s is a hell of a step backward.

When you first launch it, you are asked to sign up to Apple Music. I declined. But that is not what has irritated me: quite simply where the Music app it replaced was organised to that you could use it’s facilities in several way, the new app has lost almost all of those.

You could once list your music by composer, artist, song, genre and playlist. Now you can only look at playlists. Before it was easy to switch call up one of those categories and get the app to shuffle all while playing. Now that shuffle all facility is so unintuitive and hidden it is more or less absent. I was so put out that I went to the Apple Forums on the Apple website and said so: the new Music app, I declared, is shite. That was yesterday.

I did get a reply, but I can’t tell you what was in it, because Apple have removed my criticism and the reply. Apple, it seems, don’t like criticism. Nor, apparently did Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin. The only difference between those four and Apple, as far as I can see, is that unlike Apple they weren’t in the computer and smartphone business. Fuckwits.

NB With the email I received from Apple telling me it had removed my comment was a note saying that if I disagreed with the decision, I should get in touch. I decided I would. But back at the forum you can hunt high and low, but you’ll not find out how to get in touch. Figures. You don’t slag off Jesus Christ and expect to get a lollipop. Doesn’t work that way.

. . .

As I have before added my two ha’porth to comments about Greece’s troubles over its debts, I suppose I should add a few more now that the referendum vote has been held and a rather big majority of those who voted gave a rather prominent V sign to the eurocrats. But with things moving so fast now, that would be pointless. I can’t say I’m not pleased, although not necessarily because I am ‘on the Greek’s side’.

In fact, I am on no one’s ‘side’. It would be odd if the Greeks, who admit they lied and cheated their way into the euro and then, benefiting from the eurozone’s cheap interest rates - on the back of the strong economies of the north of the EU - borrowed like there was no tomorrow were simply let off their debts scot-free. On the other hand the terms imposed by those who lent them the money to lend the some more in order to pay off their debts - yes, it really is now that daft - were ludicrously unrealistic and in their own way are just as reprehensible as Greece’s demand to have its cake and eat it.

This is, to use the technical term favoured by hack bloggers, a total fuck-up and furthermore one of gigantic proportions and what will come of it no one can guess. I have cheerfully been predicting civil unrest, possibly leading to civil war, in Greece but to be honest that looks unlikely. But it isn’t going to end with a laughter, a song and a kiss like in some Doris Day film. So best leave off the commenting until at least some of the dust has settled.



I shall add one thing, however: irrespective of who is ‘to blame’ in this matter and sadly it is pretty much nothing more than a question of you pays your money and you makes your choice (it’s not exactly 2 + 2 = 4) consider this: the euro was introduced - gradually - in the early 2000s and was consciously a step on the road to ‘ever closer union’.

All went well to begin with. Then it all went tits up. Any roof will do in fine weather, but you know just how good yours is when it pours with rain and boy did it piss down on the euro in 2009/2010. And that was when the corruption and cheating which went on in some quarters became very obvious.

My point is this: roughly 14/15 after the single currency was introduced, the economies of every single eurozone member state is stagnating badly at best. And at worst one in four of the adults of work age in some countries is unemployed, rising to every second adult if under the age of 25. Does that sound like the euro is a roaring success?