What’s happening to this world?

Tomorrow, Trump takes over one of the most powerful countries in the world and the world might end shortly afterwards. Or not.

Soon, the United Kingdom will leave the EU and the EU might start ending or the UK might crash and burn.

Turkey might be on its way to becoming a dictatorship. Syria is still in the middle of its civil war (which should really be called the first “Water War”) resulting in many refugees trying to escape.

There is the continuing war between the hard-line Islamic groups and the Western World.

It’s starting to look like a disaster and you’d think that the Western World would band together to fight the hard-line Islamic groups more effectively.

Except, of course, that’s not actually the war, even if it seems like it.

There are significant changes happening to our world (and economies and cultures) and, it seems, nobody really knows how to deal with it or (in some cases) what the real problem is.

So, let’s look at the real problems.

Water: Some areas of the world, maybe because of climate change, exacerbated by population explosions and, therefore, lack of water resource, are suffering from unexpected droughts. This means the people who live there have to move, creating internal (to the country) migration which, if too large causes the same problems as immigration – too many people and too few jobs and other resources. This causes friction between the indigenous population and the incomers and foments anger, discrimination and the rise of fanatical groups. That’s Syria but is also starting to happen (has happened?) elsewhere.

Globalisation: The rise of the truly international corporations and their wealth and power is transforming the whole world. Some companies now have the wealth of nations and can demand governments treat them as “special cases”. Global international companies want a) free and easy trade agreements between countries, b) freedom of movement (for both themselves and their employees and their money) and c) reductions in taxes and other payments. If they don’t get these things they move out. If they get these things because of a promise to “stay where they are” or “invest more”, they can, quite easily break these promises …. and they do. They really have no “national pride” as their only motive is to increase profit and shareholder value. With the increasing beneficial (to them) trade agreements, they can move parts of their business, manufacturing or services elsewhere quite easily. (As an aside, I’ve just broken off from this and seen that Theresa May has been saying something about this at Davos – and asking multinational companies for “help” in making it right. This should be interesting.)

Money: Of course, money is actually (originally) debt, created by the banks. The problem is not money itself but the fact that, like a river, it flows and sometimes gets caught up in certain places (forming lakes of water) and sometimes disappears from elsewhere (the debt part of it). If you have it, it’s all right; if you don’t, it’s a bit of a problem. Countries used to have it (sort of) but now they have massive debt and multinationals and the super-rich have it all. This puts countries and most ordinary people at a huge disadvantage (see also globalisation above.)

Technology: Just like in the Industrial Revolution at the end of the 18th and into the 19th centuries, is changing everything we are used to, from a social and cultural sense to work – what it is, who does it and, more importantly, who doesn’t. Just like the change from everything being done by hand to automation and mass production, it is having an enormous effect in terms of employment and is growing globalisation faster than ever.

So there are the problems. The question is, what do we do about them. And no one really knows what to do. Countries, for a couple of centuries, our (more or less) stable units of groups of people, certainly aren’t sure and certain countries are trying different things. The EU has been (and currently still is) trying to “keep control” using laws and benefits. Recently some countries have put forward the idea of a universal income – where everyone gets a basic amount whether they’re working or not. Therefore these people can still buy the food they need, live in a house or flat and have some basic necessities. Those at work would have more money and can spend that money creating more employment. However, in my opinion, this will only work if those in employment either pay much more in tax or take lower pay, allowing their company to make more profit and pay more tax. At the end of it, the countries doing this kind of thing need more money to make it work.

An alternative, and the one that Trump seems to be banking on, is to ensure that companies create more jobs. The problem with this course would seem, at the moment, to do away with trade agreements and free trade – something that the multinationals desire and need.

Another alternative is to “encourage” companies to come to your country to create employment. This is what the EU (and America too) have been doing up to now. The unfortunate bit (as I mentioned in the globalisation paragraph) is that multinationals don’t feel so patriotic and will happily break any promises they make or move when they get a better offer. So, I think it’s possible to conclude that this method just isn’t really working, although it will take a bit of time for countries to get this.

Of course, in the meantime, the blame for all these world problems is being put on a) immigration and/or b) fanatics (which for Western countries is synonymous with hard-line Islamic groups.)

In the meantime, we are approaching World War III as countries and blocks around the world try to ensure (as it was for Communism v Capitalism) their brand of solution is the right one. Of course, as we’re seeing, it won’t necessarily be physical war. It will also include Digital War and an Ideals War (as for Communism v Capitalism). It’s impossible to tell who will win right now but, in the meantime, the fun game for the last few (20?) years has to be to pin the blame on someone else. And this has, largely, been successful, unlike in the war between Capitalism and Communism when, obviously, the enemy was the other side. Either the politicians and/or the media have a) not known who to blame (which is terrible) or they b) knew they were blaming the wrong people/groups but either didn’t care as it was a quick way to gain power or it was deliberate (which is also terrible).

The blame has been put on a) immigrants, b) those people not working, c) those people not paying their “fair share of tax” and, occasionally, d) banks and e) corporations.

But, in the main, it’s been a) and b). Those are the people that will HAVE to be looked after under the new EU-type model of the economy or completely abandoned under the new USA-type economic model although, under that model, the people in group b) may have some chance of working (but, possibly, in a gig economy – meaning that, although they will no longer in that group, they will have no future.)

Whichever way the world goes and whichever economic model the countries take, expect a lot of fall out and, I would say, most people in the world will suffer until the economic winner becomes clear.

So, basically, whether you live in the Syria, Turkey, Russia, the EU, post-Brexit Britain or the USA (or anywhere else?) you can expect, over the next 10 years or more, to be completely fucked.

Oh, yes. And happy new year!

Christmas Stamps 2017

So, even if I haven’t been posting anything, the Italian Christmas stamps are out and, unusually for me, already on cards to the world!

But, in case you don’t get to see them here they are:

First, the religious one

And, then, the one that I get

It’s supposed to be a reindeer! Actually, as I keep looking at the image, I’m starting to get it. It’s from behind and the reindeer has turned back to look at you. Or, it’s just some squiggly lines?

Car break-ins, Cancer or Not to Cancer, iPhone software bugs.

It is about 7.15 a.m.

I am, as usual, hardly what I could term as “awake”. However, as usual, expecting something bad, as I do often, surprised to see the car where I left it.

As I walk towards it, I press the button on the fob and the indicator lights blink, as they usually do, to inform me that the car is now unlocked. Now, unlike yesterday at about 6.30 p.m., there are no “youths” hanging around in front of the car. Last night, as always, after locking the car (using the fob and not the key), I had checked that I had locked it properly by trying to open the back door as I passed. Only last night, I had made sure I had done it (it’s such an automatic thing that sometimes I cannot, within a few seconds, remember if I have checked my locking by this method) because of the group of four of five youths in front of the car. They were innocuous enough but, you know, I’m an old man now and you can’t ever be too careful, can you? And, anyway, I’m British and youths hanging around with little to do are always a bad sign.

I get to the car and open the door, taking my bag off my shoulder as I do so to slip it into the passenger footwell.

And I noticed something slightly strange. On the front passenger seat is the emergency first aid box that is permanently in the car. The reason it was strange is that I had not moved it from under the front seats and so it was completely out of place. I looked behind my seat where I put various thing, most of them in some cheap yellow shopping-style bag. And sure enough it was a little in disarray, and the umbrella could have been moved and my “summer driving shoes” had almost certainly been moved.

I checked each of the windows of the car. No, none had been smashed.

So, someone had got into to a car that I absolutely, certainly KNOW was locked without having to break any windows. They had rummaged around a bit and, from what I can tell, took two or three lighters (that I get for free anyway) but nothing else.

Not that there was anything to take. The yellow bag holding things like a bottle of water for the dogs, some additive for the windscreen wiper water and some other fairly crap items that are only useful when making car trips.

However, it did give me a slightly weird feeling. It’s not as if I can really report anything? I mean, what could I possibly say? But now I doubt the security of the car, of course.

And the reason I was parking in that particular place was that I had been to the doctor. And I don’t have cancer, of the lungs, at least, although I’m not entirely convinced I haven’t got it. However, because the heart doctor had panicked, I’m now on pills for blood pressure, which doesn’t really please me, and I have some further tests to do next year (the first booking I could get). So bugger a bit but relief as well.

The doctor suggested that I try and cut down my smoking. She also added that I was a “lucky man” – but, then, I’ve always said that, haven’t I?

In other news, Apple phones are just as crap and unreliable as other phones. iMessage doesn’t work with phones that aren’t other Apple phones. A long conversation with Apple Help, which included resetting my telephone, didn’t help and they told me it must be my provider. It didn’t really make sense as it HAD been working and, then, sometime around April/May it stopped working – which, for a while I thought was because the phones I was trying to text were in the UK and I thought it was a UK problem – until a colleague had a problem sending a message to me.

I’ve now found that this is a known problem (well, known to the world except for Apple, it seems) and, although I’ve tried every trick given to sort the problem – so far, no good. Which doesn’t please me much. It’s something to do with an update to the operating system that they did a while ago, it seems. Let’s hope the next update fixes this. I thought the guy from Apple who was helping me was quite OK – until afterwards when I realised that he, like nearly all helplines, actually knew nothing and was just doing the equivalent of “switch it off and then back on again”

So bugger.

I will add a photo later or tomorrow.

Getting closer every day

Getting closer every day

Death happens to us all, sooner or later.

Before the Internet, it was more difficult. Information wasn’t easy to come by.

But, when I was around 15 or 16 (or even 17), I knew how to kill myself. Sleeping tablets. I knew you had to take a lot of them.

I must have been living at home, which is why I put the ages above. I went to the doctor, without telling anyone, and explained that I couldn’t sleep and could he give me something to help me sleep. I thought it was so simple. I was naive. I was a kid who knew nothing.

However, instead of giving me something, he wrote referring me to a psychiatrist. I honestly don’t know if he wrote to me or to my parents. In fact, this story of my life has been so deeply buried that it was only today that I remember it at all – and then only the pertinent things.

In any event, my parents opened the letter. They were some kind of (fundamentalist?) christians. They didn’t believe in doctors or illnesses or anything like that. And so, the idea of me going to see a psychiatrist horrified them. My father “suggested” that I didn’t need to see a psychiatrist at all and, after being very embarrassed by the fact that they found out (not thinking instead about how they came to know), I didn’t attend the appointment booked for me.

And, of course, my idea of suicide was equally scuppered.

So, maybe it was a good thing? Or maybe I should have gone to the appointment and got rid of some of the dreadful baggage that I carried around (both then and now).

But on a different but same note, this summer some things happened and I have cancer.

Well, as I’m not actually a doctor, I don’t actually know it is but suspect it is. I’ve talked about my tendency to hypochondria before now, so, you know, things happen and I think the worst but you “ignore them” and they “go away”. In this case, some things happened together at the start of the holiday (so I could hardly ruin my holiday, could I, by going to a doctor?) and some of those things are still happening.

Of course, I do understand that these things may still be happening because I believe my diagnosis. But, you know……

So, today, I’ve made an appointment to see the doctor and this will mean tests and stuff to determine if my diagnosis is correct. I’ve already been playing out all the possible consequences of these tests in my head and in my imagination – from it’s nothing, to a simple infection to a full-blown, nothing-you-can-do, terminal cancer.

And I’m both scared and not scared. “Not scared” being more “resigned” to it.

And then today I learn that a friend (or, rather, a friend’s wife) has some sort of mass on her brain. And now, at this time of my life, of course, these types of things will happen more often.

When I was a kid, death was so far away as to be something you had to actually force.

Now, death is a reality.

And it gets closer every day.

Can I find the keys to the vaults?

And, to add to my previous post.

My memory is terrible and everyone who knows me knows this to be true.

Except, that’s not really the whole story.

My memory is very selective. It seems that I am able to blot out parts of my life to the point where I remember almost nothing. But it’s a choice, albeit an automatic “choice” in that, I don’t consciously say “OK, I will forget that part of my life” but rather that parts of my life just, simply, disappear.

The student I mentioned in the last post seemed to think it was my way of dealing with difficult or hurtful things.

This can be very convenient. It can also make things difficult.

Convenience comes with not having to remember details that may upset me or things that were difficult. Also with the fact that certain things can be revisited as if for the first time and re-enjoyed without any previous “knowledge”.

The difficulties come with things like the coming weekend. My previous best friend died a few weeks ago. We (V & I) had been on holiday with him and his family many, many times; we spent Christmasses and Easters with them and other weekends too. We just got on so well. On Thursday, I shall go to the funeral. And people will talk about things from the past.

Except, I remember almost nothing of all those years (it was, maybe, 15 years or so) and I remember almost nothing of our times together, except a few, very tiny and insignificant things.

So, I’m quite nervous about this. I will have to have my “Oh, yes, I remember it well” face on. For about 3 days. This could be more than a little difficult.

Sometimes, when people remind me of something, I will be able to retrieve it from my memory bank, from the securely-locked vault. Other times, it’s locked in a different vault and the key seems to be missing. And, no amount of prompting by others enables me to find the key. The memory remains elusive.

And, I have learnt that people will try to help you remember and that they don’t really like it if you can’t remember.

On the other hand, some things I DO remember and, because those who know me and know how terrible my memory can be, assume they have better memories than I do and will be convinced that their memory is the “correct” one, even if it isn’t.

An example of which was the argument I had with my sister one time. Talking about my Grandfather, I said that he was in his 80s and she was convinced he was in his 70s and assumed (and told me) that my memory was always bad and so I was definitely wrong. I knew I wasn’t but I couldn’t convince anyone.

Some years later I found the “order of service” of his funeral which proved he WAS in his 80s. Unfortunately, by then, my sister and I had become “estranged” again and so I was never able to say “I told you so”!

Anyway, let’s hope vaults are opened this weekend so I don’t have to hide my lack of memories too much.

Like a ghost

So, she got me thinking.

Was it true? Did we have such a relationship that HAS affected everything else?

And then came the most disturbing thing.

I realised that, in all the memories, although she was obviously there, she had no physical presence. I mean to say, she was there – she was making or had made food; she put that blue stuff on my wasp stings; she cried in the car as they took me to university. And yet …..

When I tried to picture her or feel her touch, she was like a ghost – not real, ethereal. I couldn’t see a face. Or hands. She was always just out of vision. Just out of reach. She could have been touching me but I couldn’t feel it.

And that was strange. I could see him. He existed in both sight and feel.

But she’s not there, exactly.

So, I keep thinking, is this all part of it? Have I locked it down so well that she is being erased/has been erased by my own mind?

I was teaching something about women in business. There was a thing called “imposter syndrome”. It was said to cause the person to attribute their “success” to other factors such as luck, good timing, etc. rather than to themselves. They felt that they were always on the verge of “being found out”.

So, we were chatting about it and I explained that this was how I felt about the business I had. When people would say I was successful, I would respond with things like, “It’s not me, it’s the people that work here” or “It’s only because I happened to be in the right place at the right time”, etc.

I had forgotten that she has trained as a psychologist.

She said that this was caused by the relationship between me and my mother, up to 5 years of age. She suggested that it was because I had felt disturbed in some way when she wasn’t with me. So, that led me to thinking about the situations with and without her.

And that led me to the realisation that, in my thoughts and memories, she didn’t exist. Not really.

So, come our next lesson, I have to ask about this. To me, of course, this is normal but I’m not sure if it’s really normal or not.

Italy, just a little old-fashioned?

I remember when we first came to live here. The country (and the people) were strange. Things that I noticed were things like the fact that everyone seemed to have two mobile telephones (whereas in the UK there were still some people without 1 and two was hardly ever seen) and that there were “dancing girl slots” on so many television programmes. By that, I mean to say, a programme (usually a quiz show) would be “interrupted” whilst a scantily clad woman danced, usually in a provocative way, to some music. In that way, it was like stepping back in time. And yet, almost as soon as we moved here, Italy introduced laws to prohibit smoking inside publicly-used buildings. I think, at the time, only the second EU country to do this.

And, since then, I have understood that Italy, whilst being progressive in some ways, is so very backward in others.

Italy remains the only country in the EU that doesn’t have some kind of civil or other union facility for non-heterosexual couples. They’re discussing it in parliament now. But only after being “told off” by the EU for this “oversight”. There’s still a good chance that it won’t be agreed and that here it will not be possible. Yet.

But they’ve just introduced a law to stop people smoking in cars (where there are children or pregnant women) and fines for throwing cigarette butts anywhere but in ashtrays (that must be provided by the council).

Of course, you can’t always get the truth here. The cigarette prohibition, for example. For several days the news programmes had been all about smoking being banned in cars. Period. No mention of the actual rules, it seemed like a blanket ban. In fact, it was only on the day before the ban took place that some (only one that I found) gave the truth of the ban. The day of the ban, it was widely reported – correctly.

But, ignoring their treatment of “news” (which seems rarely to be based on fact) and their treatment of “non-ordinary” people (which seems to be stuck somewhere in the Middle Ages), there is the treatment of women.

For this they deserve a special place. I go back to the thing I mentioned above – the dancing women. In a terribly old-fashioned and sexist way, women on TV are generally seen as objects – and no one seems to mind this at all! Sure there are discussion programs where the older ladies (often pumped up with botox or sculpted to resemble some alien from outer space) is taken more seriously, but once you get on to light entertainment, women are nothing more than an adornment like beautiful jewels. There to be looked at and, preferably wearing something that “shows off their figure” or, even better, shows tons of flesh.

And, so it is that we have two stories today that sum it all up. The first is a woman who may be sent to prison for 6 years because “she didn’t do the housework” for her husband and, possibly most frightening of all, a company boss, cleared of sexual harassment but who, according to the judges, DID sexually sexually harass female employees! But it was only his childlike sense of humour, apparently.

The gay and gay-friendly people were using the slogan “Wake Up Italy” when they had their demonstrations to change the law re: civil unions and I’m inclined to agree – but not just for civil unions. In fact, maybe civil unions shouldn’t be the first thing on their list?

Italy – a land full of old stuff (which is a good thing) – think ancient ruins, etc.
Italy – a land which is just plain old-fashioned (which is not a good thing) – think attitudes to women, etc.

And I haven’t even covered racial problems, meritocracy and a whole host of other things. The rest of the world’s advances in some things seem to have passed Italy by.

Five Years (or, maybe, about ten?)

I’ve been meaning to write and, in fact, have written – but never finished.

Since I moved the blog, for some inexplicable reason, it seems harder to write anything.

And lots of things have happened. Most recently, lots of people have died – people that were 10 or so years older than me. Does that mean I’ve got about 10 years left?

Dale (Buffin) Griffin died (from Mott the Hoople – the first group I followed); Glenn Fry (from the Eagles – and I remember, particularly, Hotel California) died too.

But the one that really affected me, in spite of the fact that, during the 80s and 90s I never bought any of his albums and I never, ever saw him live, was David Bowie.

The day he died I was in a state of shock. For the whole day, I barely functioned. And I tried to work out why his death would affect me so badly. I puzzled over it – I mean, I don’t think I could have called myself a real fan – not compared to others – and yet, there I was, struggling to concentrate on anything, felling somewhat bereft and very sad.

But I couldn’t really work out why. There was the thing that I admired him. I styled my hair like his (or tried to) a number of times in my life. I wanted to “be” him. I remember seeing the first performance of Starman on Top of the Pops – that special performance that changed everything. I remember listening so many times to the Ziggy Stardust LP. But I listened to many things and yet no one dying has quite affected me the same way.

He did make all things possible. He made being “not normal”, acceptable and, kind of, normal – and, therefore, he made me feel better about myself at a time when I wasn’t sure what I felt about myself.

He was intelligent but ordinary; weird but not at all strange. He did what he wanted but never really strayed into an “impossible to live in” world. And, of course, he “spoke” to me (and many others), through his lyrics which often didn’t talk about anything real at all.

Of course, he will be missed because of his extraordinary talent. One of the things I thought on that day was how sad it was that he wouldn’t be releasing any more albums. Not for me but for everyone else.

OK, and for me.

Even now, days later, there seems some sort of hole in my life now that he’s gone.

Strange, isn’t it?

p.s. My favourite album was Aladdin Sane – just so you know.

Death of a friend

death of a friend

Well, there we are. Another Christmas/New Year break over, so Happy New Year.

It was, probably, the best Christmas ever. Obviously, we did the usual things but we did have a couple of days of relaxation – where even F didn’t clean! I know. It’s almost unheard of. He corrected it all by doing a full clean (Spring clean for most people) yesterday, after we took the tree down.

But there was one thing that happened which wasn’t so nice. It was the death of a friend. Well, not an actual death, as such, but the mourning still applies.

FfI has been a friend for many years, as you will have seen from posts I’ve made in the past but over the holiday the friendship died a death. It was, in some way, my fault, in as much as I could no longer keep up the pretence that “everything was OK”.

She asked about coming to us for New Year, as is usual. I asked if “he” was coming to which she replied “yes”. I said I’d think about it. She got stroppy with me and said she wouldn’t come now anyway. This was all by text. The next day, she apologised by text and we spoke. I explained that I didn’t like him. She wanted to know why but I couldn’t really explain it. I explained that he hadn’t done or said anything bad but I just didn’t like him and the fact that every time I saw her, he was there – being creepy and smarmy and, generally, dislikeable.

And, so, that was that.

She’s going off to the USA with him. It should have been the 28th December. Then it moved to 10th January and now it’s moved to 30th January. They are “business partners”. I put that in inverted commas deliberately. She, of course, being like V, never has any money, so she’s not putting any money into this business and, yet, he wants to make her a “partner”. But, I guess she does have something to bring. She has contacts in the States and she has American citizenship. So, if he marries her, he can get his green card and escape from his mother and Italy.

I suppose she has a lot to offer him.

In the past, with the various boyfriends she has had, she has regaled me with stories of going out with him and the friends of his she has met and the dinner parties she has given to entertain these friends.

She has been clear about this one, stating several times – “He is NOT my boyfriend”. And, yet, he has been attached to her like a limpet or a puppy dog. And there have been no dinner parties for his friends since, it seems, he doesn’t actually have any.

I tried to hold on thinking that he was going soon, But the “soon” kept slipping and the thought of having him for New Year was just too much. I couldn’t do it. During her texts to me she stated that she had “accepted F” as my boyfriend – which would be a little like me accepting her boyfriends – which I have always done.

During the conversation she stated again that he was NOT her boyfriend but the subtle difference between being a boyfriend and NOT being a boyfriend seems to have been lost on her.

But I’ve had enough. I never want to see the little prick again. I never want to hear about how I look like some Hollywood film star from his mouth and I don’t want the creepiness around me that he brings. And I fail to understand why that is difficult for her to understand that, if he was her boyfriend I would be able to tolerate him much more but the fact that he isn’t means I can’t and don’t have to tolerate him at all! However “well he treats me” – and by that she means “much he pays for.”

And, so, the end. Enough.

It is the death of a friend and FfI is no more.

I can hardly believe it …….

Well, they arrived yesterday.

So, that’s good and it means there is the final present, already wrapped and under the tree.

Of course, it’s possible that their system will work out that they sent me these after they had cancelled the order and given me a refund. Let’s see. In any event, they do have a really crap system and they need to look at it and, maybe, fire the IT people who wrote it.

But, after Christmas. I wouldn’t want to spoil Christmas for them.

And now, the cleaner is in and Frankie and she are doing what feels like a Spring Clean …….. AGAIN!

Soon I will start to prepare the food for tomorrow and Boxing Day.

And, then relax and enjoy Christmas as it’s supposed to be.

And, so, guys, a very Happy Christmas to all of you.

And I hope Gail’s move goes well and the new home is even more “home” than the old one.