Not that I'm serious or anything, but if performance-enhancing drugs were legalised, and the "Formula D Olympics" ran alongside the other varieties, we would see a lot of investment in research and development, and that would create jobs in the performance-enhancing drugs industry.
So I get back from Singapore, where one of the themes was the rivalry between India and China, to find an Indian steel company announcing British redundancies during a Chinese state visit, and blaming Chinese cheap steel imports. The question from the media, as always, was whether [insert name here] will mention human rights to the Chinese leader. Yes, [insert name here] will mention human rights. Cameron will do it, Corbyn will do it, and if I happen to run into the man, I'll mention them. Will that make a difference?
If there's still a Great Game, we're a piece on the board, not a player. It seems at least reasonable to suppose that the Indian steel company would have considered the timing of its announcement - even if only to the extent of a last-minute "Hang on - do we want to do this now?" Odd, then, that the only story was the Chinese not-quite-commitment to build a power station in the West Country. Now we'll just have to wait for the Chinese counter-snub to India. And the British workers crunched between the two sides will have to look for work.
Meanwhile, the future continues to slow down. Skynet became self-aware back in the nineties, and even Marty McFly turned up yesterday in his DeLorean. James Bond is back, yet again, and we're all excited about a Star Wars movie. What's new, and where's the next future?
Today, apparently, is National Poetry Day. This to record briefly Radio 4's invitation to "make like a poet". Not "write poetry" or "read poetry", but "make like a poet".
My favourite poem is Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. But I often think of The Times Are Tidy by Sylvia Plath. And every now and then I open up U. A. Fanthorpe's Christmas Poems and read BC-AD.
Paddle-boarding. Slightly more do-able than surfing. Sunshine on water on Saturday afternoon, cold grey Sunday, last night the storm that takes away the leaves. Grey morning. Enough. Diary entry.
Another month. Fourth quarter of the year. Solstice not so long ago. Sun very red on the horizon, very big, seeming to rise slowly. Surprised myself, sitting in the window watching the leaves, by not noticing it until it was fully formed on the horizon. The leaves, flickering like the opposite of light on water, against a clear sky in a steady wind. The light having that steel-grey quality of imminent snow, although it's nowhere near that cold and likely to be another warm sunny day.
Thinking about that conversation overheard the other day. Underlying assumption that we're all on the left now, and if only the country would see sense, Mr Corbyn would take over and bring us to a steady state in which all our problems had been solved. I don't know why I find politics so interesting at the moment. A study in human nature? The oddly symbiotic relationship between politicians and their interviewers, each trained to deal with the other?
As for the real world, that's somewhere else entirely.
Early morning. The kettle bringing itself to the boil. Turn off the light, and the sky is just a touch brighter than it was, a rip of white cloud on the horizon in an overall grey, lit from behind, et cetera, Voice in the radio talking about J Corbyn's likely impact on markets. Nil, given that he's detached from reality (says the radio). A piece earlier about J Corbyn's failure to appoint women to any of the high offices of state.
Mr Corbyn isn't a throwback; he just says what he thinks. This amounts to a new politics, given the spin and equivocation of media-trained interview technique. Maybe he can achieve what he wants. Maybe the consequences of idealism are invariably unintended. "No women in the top five jobs?" says the journalist interviewing the other journalist, just a moment ago. When 24-hour rolling news was introduced, nobody mentioned that it was going to be the same news, on and on.
Is it just that we're against government? The constituency that 'should' have been Labour's at the election stayed with the party that it's most comfortably against? Dear Diary, I don't think it matters which of the candidates gets the leadership of the Labour Party, any more than the internal politics of the Privy Council matter to the outside world. It's not that Labour is failing to articulate its message, or get across that it cares, blah, blah, but that opposition no longer needs to be channelled through a generalist political party.
There's something narrow and specific about nationalism, for example. The same could be said of fundamentalism, which thinks religious but acts political, and of the aims of (for example) the Women's Equality Party and the Green Party. But the broader opposition to government policy that would once have been led by a political party, by Labour against the Tories or vice-versa, no longer happens that way.
We may all be against the government, and let's say for the sake of argument that we're all against the cuts, the austerity, immigration policy, any change to the BBC or the NHS, migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, milk being bought too cheaply from farmers, the whole nine yards. But the big change is: we don't flock to the largest opposition party, and seek to effect change by voting in, well, Labour.
We do something that seems to be more effective than that. We go on Facebook. We stop shopping. We organise mass movements around narrow and specific objectives. Not in the 'Arab Spring' sense of being summoned to a demonstration by Twitter, and not with much drama. We just make our presence felt. When Amazon changed its policy on paying UK tax, it was going from doing something legal and cheap, and defensible in an argument with HMRC, to doing something more expensive and less immediately beneficial to its shareholders. Supermarkets and milk producers aren't talking prices because David Cameron has chaired a COBRA meeting on the subject. In both of those cases, we wanted change because the status quo wasn't fair - and that was enough for change to happen.
Politics in the UK may be dominated by a 'silent majority' of 'shy Tories', and it's striking how much political discourse is focused on resisting change - to the licence fee, to the BBC, to the NHS, to weekend tube services in London, and hey, in a sense perhaps also to the unpopular government - but I don't think that's really the point any more. Without picking on a particular candidate, I'd say that this leadership election is exposing the weakness of politician-speak. I'd say Jeremy Corbyn is popular not because we want Clause Four reinstated (he retracted, didn't he?), but because he talks in common-sense English sentences. He's specific about what he wants.
The present government will eventually defeat itself. The present electorate is ungovernable and the unpopular moves will accumulate. When the present government falls, we might just possibly elect 'the other lot', in the old sense, or we might repeat a version of what we've just done and have done before: Tories defeat Coalition; New Labour buries Labour; Thatcherism trounces old-style Conservatism. The Union might fall apart, because we've voted for nationalist parties and/or pushed for devolution and thus brought politics closer to the people where it belongs. Or we may do something that expresses a new approach to politics.
We may continue to oppose, in the cause of fairness. We may continue to make our presence felt. We are, after all, empowered to "speak truth to power", or at least to express ourselves forcefully to the people who nominally hold power, much more 'loudly' than ever before. The vocal wing of the electorate votes every day, through Facebook, comments, blogs. It may not happen soon, but at this rate, if we're not careful, we may end up running the country by opposing the government.
Going by this morning's radio coverage, and reported-on-the-radio newspaper coverage, the Greek deal was a disaster. The Greeks couldn't pay back the money they owed, so "Europe" has lent them more. To justify this, the Eurozone's finance ministers have set even more onerous conditions for the loan - more onerous than the conditions already rejected by the Greek people. So there!
Everybody following this knows by now that Greece forgave Germany's debt in 1953. Times were different, circumstances were different - but that's what has snagged on the public consciousness. More to the point, the deal was reached, we're told, at the end of a marathon (sic) seventeen-hour talking session. Yes, those ministers, mostly late-middle-aged men and women, spent seventeen hours arguing and then finally agreeing that more lending was the best way to get their impossible debt repaid. Yeah, right.
Also in the public consciousness is the strange truth that Greece has been getting steadily worse off since the Eurozone first started to help. Today and tomorrow, the Greek parliament, which of course represents the Greek people, will be voting on whether to accept a worse deal than the Greek people have already rejected.
So my question is, if the Greek parliament says no, whose fault will that be?
I wish I could master that plosive <B>. The B that news teams use when they tell us that something is going to cost Billions, or that the debt has risen to Billions. You need to treat the number as a run-up, one-and-a-half ... then you hit it on the rise ... Billion euros!
On second thoughts, the numbers remain abstract. The B sounds great, but it doesn't work. There's no reference point. It's going to cost so much, which is the cost of a pint of milk, or a house in Knightsbridge, or an aircraft carrier - and you know how much money this is. If it's just Big, it's just Big. Nothing to be bigger than, smaller than - nothing to say: this Big.
Big numbers can work; even in astronomy, you can imagine the sun shrunk to the size of an orange, which means that the earth (a hazelnut?) is that far away. If the orange-sized sun is here, Jupiter is over there. Why don't we try for scale when we're trying to express Big financial numbers?
Here's one for Peter Quatrine. Peter, this link takes you to a short story I wrote a year ago, possibly more, to read at an event. I had it up here for a while. You and I were talking about pdfs, and different ways of posting stories, and while I'm not necessarily suggesting anything, I thought you might be interested to see it. I'll be watching to see what you do.
You found me!
Welcome. Thank you for coming. But am I the right
William Essex? Click here
to meet some more.
Is this you?
If you're here because you've been doing some detective work, after visiting an obscure page of the Climbing Tree Books website, you'll be glad to know that you've come to the right place. It's me, for now. Get in touch and I'll tell you what you need to do next.
An "adult fantasy novel about serendipity and the limits of perception". Yay!