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.
Some while ago, I bought a paperback book called Reamde, by a US author called Neal Stephenson. Fat paperback, by an author I didn't know. Fiction. I really have no idea why I bought it. But I did.
To revive a word I haven't seen in a while, I found it unputdownable. Thriller, with a tech angle: Reamde turns out to be a mistyping of "Read me", as in read-me file. There really is no connection between the two authors, nor the two books, but I feel the same way about Reamde as I do about Charles McCarry's Old Boys, which come to think of it I picked up and impulse-bought in a similar way, years ago. Strikes me now that the main protagonist of each book is a man, at a certain point in life, certain perspective ... maybe that's it. Not. I also liked Philip Roth's Everyman, neat black hardback, read it again recently, and I'm decades younger than that anonymous - what? Hero?
Now I've bought Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. Big fat hardback this time, just published, well reviewed in the Financial Times. I've developed a habit of living with significant books for a while, significant in the sense that I really want this one to be good, so I haven't started it yet. Instead, while waiting for the moment, I've been reading self-improving books about inner health - notably Gut by Giulia Enders, which has a first chapter titled "How does pooing work?" - so I've developed an understanding of, er, what happens after lunch.
But that's another story entirely. Also recently, out of curiosity: Andrew Vachss, Flood, on my Kindle. A book I read many years ago, almost certainly on a train. A city changed out of recognition; a crime that no longer happens that way, if it ever did; an old-style anti-hero and his old-style sidekicks. What remains is a book about a place and a mindset. But that Manhattan, and all it contained, is at one with Nineveh and Tyre. Lest we forget, right?
There's a picture circulating on Facebook, showing red paint daubed on a memorial (in Downing Street) to "The Women Of World War Two". The red paint says "Tory scum". It was added to the memorial in the course of a demonstration against the result of the General Election; said demonstration happened to coincide with the anniversary celebrations for VE Day.
Turnout in the election was 66.1%, although 100% did have the opportunity to voice their opinions through the ballot box, given that the election was democratic. 33.9% either didn't feel strongly enough, or didn't care which party won, or decided that electing the same or a different set of politicians wouldn't make much difference. Or something else. Who knows?
On second thoughts, I'm not going to write about this. Everything is subject to discussion these days, it seems. Everything in today's democratic politics attracts an equal and opposite reaction via the TV studio or the radio interview or social media, or whatever. It's easy to forget that "civilisation", whatever we think we mean by that, rests on a set of shared principles.
Either we understand - without debate - that some things are just plain wrong, or the disintegration of the United (sic) Kingdom is as inevitable as was (with hindsight) the collapse of the Soviet Union. I would like to live in a civilisation where (for example) protesters against an election result just step round some memorials, and daub their red paint elsewhere.
Those Women fought fascism under a coalition government, and then they were part of an electorate that brought in the Attlee government and thus the NHS. History doesn't repeat itself exactly, but if we're going to pre-judge today's post-coalition government, let's not do it with red paint.
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!