jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

Europe and Brexit

In 1945 The Second World War ended. Europe had been once more torn apart and destroyed by nationalist fighting. Only just over 70 years ago. It is easy to forget how short a time that is in historical terms.
From that disaster came a firm conviction to avoid future conflicts by uniting Europe in a number of common causes. The process has been slow, difficult and not always successful to date. There have been great advances, huge mistakes, and no end of misunderstandings.
But the idea is brilliant. A united Europe as a guarantor of civil rights, social services, tolerance and equality. A space which has no room for the death penalty, or dictatorships of any colour, or prosecution based on race, creed or sexual condition. A space for peace and freedom.
Now the concept has been put into doubt by the British and their unexpected Brexit vote. On what grounds? According to the right wing tabloid press the problem is one of immigration and of loss of sovereignty. Brussels has apparently gone mad and is dragging the British people down with them.
Criticism is fair and to be encouraged, mistakes should be pinpointed and corrected. There is discontent not only in the UK, but also in Poland, France, Holland and other nations. But to undo what has taken so much to create is short-sighted and dangerous. What if Britain or any other nation state decides to go it alone on immigration? Or on common defence?  How will that affect international relations and trade? What if an ‘independent’ government wanted to bring back the rope?
The answer is not to become a maverick state, to cut hard earnt ties, to burn one’s boats. That is an island mentality, and as the poet said, no man is an island.
Europe will continue to grow as a concept. Differences will be dealt with, crises overcome. There is no turning back, despite the Farages and Le Penns. Britain belongs to Europe and should form part of its growth. But if it finally decides not to form part of its own continent, to remain distant and wrapped in its faded Union Jack, nothing will change. Europe is a reality, a necessity, an achievement.

miércoles, 9 de noviembre de 2016


Trump wins the election. Wasps, monkeys....


From the helicopter we spotted the truck. It had veered off the dirt track into a mound of dry earth. Common enough. Most trucks were imported, second-hand models, with bald tyres and dodgy brakes. Bad roads and alcohol do not help. What was not usual was the group of vultures that scattered as we landed.
All that was left of the driver was the trunk. No head or limbs. The work of monkeys.
For some time now a group of whitewash monkeys had been terrorising the district. They are a particularly aggressive species, colonisers who expel all competitors from the area, hunting and killing all rivals. It was as if they could bear no other form of life other than their own. Hence the name: whitewash. Originally confined to a small protected wildlife reserve, they had recently begun to invade the surrounding farms and villages. A long drought had brought out the worst in them, and they had attacked livestock and even domestic animals. But this was the first news of an attack on a human.

Today we received news that may help to understand the attack on the truck driver. It took place one day last week.
According to the local police, only a young girl called Martha survived. She has been terribly disfigured.
There were three of them, Martha, her elder sister Mary, and a friend called Susana. They were bathing in the rock pool just outside their village. As they left the water, naked, they felt eyes on them. They felt unprotected and afraid. As they reached for their clothes the monkeys attacked. Some men heard the screams and managed to chase the group of monkeys off, but by then Mary and Susana had been dismembered.
Our conclusion is that humans had not been attacked before because the monkeys did not recognise people in clothes as rivals. That has now changed.  

We have informed the authorities, or at least tried to. They didn’t seem too worried. They believe all of this is simply a local matter, nothing that won’t sort itself out in time. They have promised ‘to look into it’.

As I write our dog barks, then falls silent. I can hear a scurrying on the tin roof, and an asthmatic, giggling sound. They have found us. It won’t be long now.

jueves, 14 de julio de 2016

Maggie May

Well done the British voter! May as Prime Minister and Boris J (for joker I assume) for the Foreign Office. Carry on Downing Street. You Brexit voters sure hit the jackpot this time. You can watch as they all go laughing to the bank.
How did those lyrics to Maggie May go? 'You made a first class fool out of me...'

Privelege made tradition, and the punters lapping it up in their Ascot Ladies' Day copy cat gowns and tails. Bottoms up, and f*** the French!

The sad thing is, it works.

miércoles, 29 de junio de 2016

Critical Moment

Here's the cover of our new album, Burn it down. Some people spot the idea straight off, but others have trouble seeing what it is. Here are some clues.
1. The original was in black and white by NASA.
2. Only the colour has been retouched.
3. The smoke is real!
4. It changed the world.
5. The opening track is called Fresh Kills for a reason.

lunes, 20 de junio de 2016

Refugees, Brexit and other myths.


The architects had designed Bellavista so that every home would have a view, even if it meant having to crane your neck out of a side window. Any blind spots had been reserved for commercial space, garages and service areas.

The natural beauty of this part of the world could best be appreciated from the verandahs of the south facing villas, like the one belonging to Carlos Schneider, owner of a successful building company, and President of the Proprietors Association. This morning he sat on a wicker chair sipping his coffee while his eyes wandered idly past the perimeter fence down to the glittering sea.

Then Johnny the Drunk came into sight, from the left.

Today he was wearing gold football boots, white pirate trousers, and a tight-fitting black T-shirt with a picture of something gothic on the chest. His matted hair was plastered down under a white golfing hat, and enormous sun glasses, probably meant for a woman, completed his disguise. Johnny was the resident vagabond, and as such had first pick of second hand clothes.

-        Mr. President!

He gruffed, and stood to attention. Mr. Schneider didn't reply, hoping that if he ignored him he would go away.

-        Good day to you! Good day for hunting, Mr. President, sir!

Johnny stood his ground; he would have an answer.

-        Good morning Johnny. For hunting?

-        Indians.

He started to laugh, then broke into a coughing fit.

-        Scalp 'em. Scalp 'em before they carry off your daughters!

Carlos paid no heed to Johnny's drunken remarks, the man was a buffoon. If it were up to him he would have him ejected from the grounds at once, but the women would have none of that. They had adopted him as if he were some kind of stray cat. They fed and clothed him, and gave him odd jobs to do so that he would always have a little cash for his drink and cigarettes. Whenever Carlos brought the issue up at the meetings  a number of lefty types, best not mention any names,  whinged on about Humanity and Samaritans and the like. Compassion for the less fortunate, they preached. Nothing about social leeches, parasites, scroungers and good for nothings. So Johnny was allowed to sleep in an old tool shed just outside the walls of the development, and could come and go as he pleased – the guards would only stop him if he were drunk.

He thought of pointing out that it was the Indians that did the scalping, not the other way round, but was loathe to encourage him. The tramp hung around a little longer in the hope of a sign of generosity, but Carlos just sipped his coffee. Eventually he shuffled off, mumbling something to himself.

It was not until that afternoon that Mr. Schneider learnt about the immigrants.

There were three of them, two men and a woman, and they had moved into one of the empty properties at the back of the development. Michael Moretti had seen them that morning, and some of the children had been along to corroborate. They were Africans; sub Saharan Africans by all accounts. The police were called. No doubt the problem would soon be resolved.

The following day Carlos Schneider was aghast to discover that the immigrants had not been evicted, moved on or deported. He demanded an explanation, which he received in all its twisted detail. They were not illegal immigrants. They were rather alegal, having slipped into the country via an administrative loophole. They were now squatting, and until they were reported to the police by the owner of the property there was nothing to be done. But this is private property. Yes sir. They must have found a way past the guards and forced entry. Yes sir. He decided to call an emergency meeting.

The apartment taken over by the Africans had been empty for some time. Weeds grew from the most improbable positions on the terrace, and the windows were opaque with accumulated grime. It belonged to Cedric Gustafson, an ageing chess reporter based in Stockholm. All the bills were paid religiously, but Cedric himself had not been seen for a number of years. They would get in touch and demand that he report these intruders to the police. Then an eviction order could be obtained. All those in favour please raise their hands. Passed unanimously.

Cedric Gustafson, they discovered, was dead. He had died eighteen months earlier but nobody had been informed. His estate was now being disputed between a number of ex wives, children and step children. But President Schneider was not a man who gave in easily. He called another meeting.

It was agreed, by simple majority, that the intruders be approached by the Community as a whole. Perhaps they could thrash it out and come to some kind of amicable agreement? A little carrot and stick? Mr. Schneider would go, as President, accompanied by Ms. Mary De Klerk, vice- president, and Dr. Vasilis South, treasurer.

Johnny the Drunk sat on the kerb and drank warm beer as the welcoming committee tried to communicate with the newcomers. He watched as waves of civic pride crashed against the rugged rocks of necessity. They courteously declined the community's kind offer for them to abandon the premises forthwith or face the consequences. They preferred the consequences.

Unlike the apathetic gatherings of the past, the following meeting was a raucous affair, full of foul language and interruptions. Order, please! If we all speak at once...... The once homogeneous community had now fractured into small but vociferous groups that vied with each other for attention. Raising the volume and shouting down rivals appeared to be the commonly agreed manner to achieve this. Try as he may, Carlos Schneider was unable to control his neighbours and was fast becoming hoarse. He waved his arms, he personally approached especially distraught cliques, he tried sitting in silence, banging his hand on the table, feigning a walk out. But his fellow members would have their rant. He decided to suspend the event and was all but lynched.

Two days later, once everybody had let off steam, he was able to conduct a tense but relatively calm reunion where it was decided that two very different approaches be put to the test.

First, the stick. The squatters would be virtually imprisoned in their new found home. The guards would let them know that if they ever left the development, they would never make it back in again. They would also be warned that the property they had illegally invaded was being watched round the clock, and that the moment it was left empty, the community would change all the locks, brick off the doors and windows, and put a guard at the main entrance. Only if the gilded cage idea failed would they put into the practice the contingency plan.

Somehow they survived. It was difficult to know how, (sabotage was suspected), but the fact is that after a month they were still there. They seemed relaxed. They had barbecues in the long summer evenings, and put flowers in the window boxes. They chatted to the children, or shared a beer or two with Johnny on the front porch. Rumour had it that the elder man was a teacher and spoke fluent French. Rumour had it that Petra Idigoras was taking classes with him, and paying handsomely. Rumour had it that certain members of the Kitchen Club had secretly asked the woman for authentic African recipes.

Plan B was exactly what Carlos had hoped to avoid, but his hands were tied. The three were approached again. The elder one would be teaching French on an official basis, the second man would help out on the gardens, and the woman would become an honorary member of the Kitchen Club. They would get papers, they could come and go as they pleased, they would be offered alternative legal accommodation, with a fixed rent. Welcome to Bellavista.

At the following year's AGM the by now pregnant African woman sat amongst her drab neighbours dressed in her best colourful robes, like a pineapple on a plate of plums. All three had been invited to take part in the lively debates, though as non proprietors they would not be able to vote. Carlos Schneider suggested, in view of recent events, that security be tightened. The perimeter fence was full of holes and control at the main gate was lax. Are we all agreed on this point? The Africans nodded with their new colleagues. Yes indeed, unanimously.

It was a windy November morning as Carlos was about to climb into his car when he heard the news. The Gustafson place again. They had crow-barred open the security doors. Eastern Europeans by all accounts, a whole family, eight or more.

Call the police!

martes, 14 de junio de 2016

Live and let live

There are a number of expressions that, through use or abuse, have lost their original impact and become mere clichés, emptied of all meaning.
One of these is ‘live and let live’. It is now a throw away phrase, conjuring up little more than  a hippyesque passivity bordering on the ‘who cares?’
It is time we rebooted the term.
After the homophobic brutality of the Orlando massacre, with its Trumped up backlash of Islamophobia, after the mindless attacks on university campus, Parisian discotheques, European trains, Middle Eastern States, international flights…. The list is unfortunately too extensive to document here.
Live and let live. It is such basically human wisdom. We are gregarious; we thrive on co-operation and mutual benefit. Peaceful co-existence is essential to our well-being, and cultural diversity, like genetic diversity, is a strength, not a weakness.
Why do we get so upset by our neighbours’ likes and dislikes, their dress sense, their attitudes? Does it matter what an adult person does in his or her bedroom, is it anybody’s business but their own? How can the fact that there are Muslims and Jews ruffle the feathers of Catholics and Protestants? Long hair, short skirts, veils, camouflage suits… 
Take a look at London, that huge cosmopolitan microcosm, and see how tolerance and respect allow people of all types to live parallel lives. Not in perfect harmony, clearly not, but certainly not at each others' throats.
Live and let live. It is an expression devoid of religious or political overtones. It is Human experience and knowledge, learnt the hard way, and turned into an excellent piece of advice.
There is no one Truth, everybody has their own. There is no reason to suppose that one person’s idea of heaven on earth is superior to anyone else’s. The minute we realise that and stop trying to impose our wills on others, the blood will cease to flow with such startling regularity.
Live and let live.

lunes, 6 de junio de 2016

The Famous British Sense of Humour

Bottoms up, lads, nudge nudge, know what I mean? Our future leaders practising their can hardly stand up comedy routine in a Typical British Pub. How much better Britain would be if we left everythng in their capable hands!

lunes, 16 de mayo de 2016


En EEUU Donald Trump va camino a ser el candidato republicano a la presidencia. Hay muchas palabras que le define: misógino, xenófobo, homófobo… y algunas más que se me ocurre. Mientras, en Filipinas, el pueblo que ha sufrido la dictadura de los Marcos he elegido como jefe a un individuo que se jacta de haber matado a muchas personas, y que se hace llamar El Castigador.
Seguramente hay muchos otros ejemplos, desde Reagan a Putin, pero vamos a concentrarnos en España.
Un país que ha sufrido no sólo una crisis sin parangón en los últimos años, sino un ataque frontal a las bases de una democracia consolidada. La Ley Mordaza, La LOMCE, la erosión de lo público en sanidad y educación, la súper-exitosa Reforma Laboral, el rescate con fondos públicos de bancos privados….  Sino sobre todo, debajo de todo, entrelazado con todo, la corrupción impune.
Llega la hora de las urnas. Los inteligentes votantes españoles, tan bien informados, acuden a decidir su futuro.
Abren los sobres. Y el partido más votado es….

Más, por favor. Me duele, pero me gusta.