Old Bits’n’Bobs

2016 was a bit of a drag year for me. I’m hoping it will be much more fun next year.Last year’s Older Bits’n’Bobs are listed here, but this year’s Old Bits’n’Bobs are listed and linked below for your delight and delectation.

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Older Bits’n’Bobs

Looking back at my output for 2015 brings me to the admission that it can all be filed neatly under Older Bits’n’Bobs. I’m sure you will agree that you don’t find stuff like this anywhere else on the tinternets. Enjoy all 54 for the knock-down price of none.

Democracy Solved

What started out as being declared “a good thing” that “people are again engaging in politics”, has turned pretty sour; Trump, Brexit and the Scottish independence referendum have upset a lot of people on social media, and even in real life.  These are just three recent examples, there are far more. Democracy is in crisis, but I think this year might have found a real solution.

There are so many flavours of democracy for it to mean anything, yet people fight and die to give whatever-it-is to foreign countries. It seems that if it is labelled “democracy” then it is better than a dictatorship or anything else. I’m not entirely sure that this is true.

When people argue with me, especially when I say I do not vote, they usually make the mistake of fighting for the grand democratic concept instead of the system that is actually set up and running my country. The one I am against.

Basically, I argue, we are trying to use a 17th century system in the 21st century, but if we could invent such a system in the first place, surely we could come up with a new and better one if we put our minds to it.

The response I get to that simple idea amazes me – people seem so attached to the status quo, to party politics, to labels like “Labour” or “Tory” – even while being upset that Brexit or Trump can happen against their wishes.

While more people may now agree with me that it is a bit of a mess, ideas on solving the problem are thin on the ground, so I have decided to stop pointing out the corruption, the inefficiency, and the undemocraticness (to coin a new word), and instead try to be a bit more positive.

Dr Benjamin Barber has a cool way of getting democracy to work again by thinking in terms of cities instead of countries.

Listen to his TED talk from 2013.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/benjamin_barber_why_mayors_should_rule_the_world
If you don’t have time for the full talk, there is a really good short interview on TED Radio hour from NPR on youtube. Go to 9.06 for the start of his segment.

Alternatively, you can scan the written transcript here.

They have to get things done, they have to put ideology and religion and ethnicity aside and draw their cities together. We saw this a couple of decades ago when Teddy Kollek, the great mayor of Jerusalem in the ’80s and the ’90s, was besieged one day in his office by religious leaders from all of the backgrounds, Christian prelates, rabbis, imams. They were arguing with one another about access to the holy sites. And the squabble went on and on, and Kollek listened and listened, and he finally said, “Gentlemen, spare me your sermons, and I will fix your sewers.”

I like this very much; I do think people belong to cities – even when they live in the suburbs or countryside, they pick the nearest city to say that is where they are from.

Cities have identities and universities. Football teams, festivals, trams or subways, restaurants and parks. They are a manageable size for belonging – far better than a whole country. I feel more Glaswegian than Scottish, and I am sure that this is typical.

We already have Mayors and councils in place. So the future could be built from something we already have – we would only then need to adjust and refine, perhaps using technology, perhaps revising the party system, and also by transfer of powers and by getting local authority finance sorted better.

It seems to be the case that every city everywhere has similar working structures – and they all learn from each other because the problems are the same – sewers, potholes, public transport etc. This is not a weird pipe-dream set up. It’s not too radical for people to get behind. And that’s a plus point I think.

This year, 2016, was the first Global Parliament of Mayors., meaning that change has started already. Mayors and council heads from all around the planet met up in the Netherlands to get this going. This, to me, is a really positive step, and seems to me to be the solution for democracy.

Trusting Forward

Times they are a changin’ – so sang Bob Dylan back in 1964, and he’s just won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year (2016), so he’s still valid, and what he sang is still valid too.

The times are indeed still changing. It’s a big change in itself that Bob can win a literature prize when he’s not working in that field.

I suspect that the biggest change is in regard to trust.

When you think about it, trust underpins the majority of changes we all hear about these days.

Labour Party supporters lost trust in their own party and voted in Corbyn. The public lost trust in the Labour Party and voted for other parties instead. The majority of Brits lost trust in membership of the European Union.

People have lost trust in Big Business, Big Pharma, Big Banks. They have also lost trust in politics, religion, economics, sport, climate change, and the media.

Corruption, Fake News, Drugged athletes, VW’s rigged emissions… it’s difficult to find anything we can still trust in.

This idea intrigues me, so I’m thinking it through here on this blog in front of your very eyes.

I was once told that marriage is a relationship based on trust. That it requires a buy-in from both parties, and is based on continuance-without-question. This is close to the work ethic in that you get up and go to work each morning without thinking – it’s automatic, it’s what you do. You do not have to stop and decide to choose to go to work each day. Same thing with marriage – you decided to marry, and don’t need to make that choice every day. Until that trust is broken.

Can trust in work or marriage, once broken, ever be regained? I have heard it said that once trust in a relationship is broken, then a decision is continually made – that there is a choice every morning. You do not automatically assume subconsciously to continue. Broken trust is when that comes to the fore and is considered however fleetingly. Maybe this fades over time? What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Yes, we all know relationships can continue – but the point is that the trust is not there; something has changed. Perhaps more often than not, continuance is because there is no clear alternative, and the choice is forced rather than freely made.

OK. I know what you’re thinking – that relationships have different areas of trust, and my description is too narrow.  You’re right but only to a certain extent; some people don’t trust their partners to drive their car, others don’t trust their significant other with handling the money or children.So we can have working relationships containing distrust, but it seems to me that it works only when the distrust is known to both, and actively managed (not ignored or avoided). That’s the important difference I think.

What can be done when trust is broken?

Well we can vote for change. We can vote against the establishment. We can revolt. We can fight back.

I know that Air B’n’B is all about trust; people are in your home – your private and personal space.  Uber is another new business that is very trusting too.

This is the new trust way.

We always had a social contract, a trust that the taxi driver would take us to our destination. We maybe didn’t have a great level of trust that the fare would be correct or that the taxi would not break the speed limit. But with Uber and Air B’n’B it’s a two-way street in that you can review your experience, and they can review you as a customer.

The result is that service provider and customer behave better, and trust is currency.

Reputation becomes the biggest and most important commodity.

Councils provide housing for people who do not take care of the property. Perhaps if there was a system like the Uber/ Air B’n’B model, reputation would make councils repair and maintain properties better, and tenants would keep their homes better?

Banking and investing have always been about customer reputation – credit scores and ratings – but that is one-sided. We need the banks and financial institutions to care about their own reputations, we need this to be a two-way street to rebuilt trust.

Politics is too far gone. The old party politics system is no longer fit for purpose. Council members, MPs, MEPs and MSPs have never been rated and reviewed on their performance, their delivery of manifesto promises nor even on their attendance/ involvement. There have never been Key Performance Indicators nor targets against which they may be measured. It’s deliberately complicated and opaque.

I can’t think of anything that can’t be improved by changing to a reputation model – including work. I hope this is the future.

 

Petty Crime for the 21st Century

The way we shop has changed – along with the way we steal.

My mother shopped every day, sometimes more than once. She would take her shopping bag and buy just what she needed for the meal or recipe – a couple of slices of this, a few scoops of that. This type of shopping made it difficult to steal because you were served by a counter assistant on a one-to-one basis.

Stealing relied on sleight of hand skills and misdirection. You could ask for something on a high shelf, for example, and while the assistant wasn’t looking, items could be pocketed. You could use an accomplice too – this helps with misdirection, and while there were no CCTV cameras or smart tags, the risk was direct and personal.

I know of people who are nostalgic for such days; they miss the thrill, the adrenaline rush, the risk of shame and humiliation. Even when there was no criminal intent, this was present; the shop assistant knew exactly what you were buying – pornographic material, condoms or ointments for thrush.

Perhaps because of the personal interaction element, the embarrassment factor or the need for privacy, shopping changed, and along with it, the crime.

Supermarkets introduced baskets, trolleys and check-outs. The thief only had to put items in a pocket or otherwise avoid the check-out till. Shopping was much faster and less embarrassing, but so was shop-lifting.

It is possible that the losses, at least to some extent, would be offset by the savings in reduced staffing levels and relying on technology like CCTV.

But people are inventive, and with each new innovation in shopping comes an innovation in crime.

Today, we have the Self-Service-Checkout.

Thieves must be delighted with this – it makes everything so much easier and less risky. If caught, one can simply say it was an innocent error.

George Charles of VoucherCodesPro.co.uk carried out a survey of 2,634 people aged 18 and over about their shopping habits and use of self service checkouts.

About 19 per cent said they stole from Self -Service-Checkouts – and the majority said they stole regularly.

Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Theft from stores pushed the direct cost of retail crime up to £511m last year, 166 per cent higher than five years ago.”

Of course, this generates more vigilance – usually in CCTV at this area, but what if there was a way to go undetected by CCTV?

Well, it seems that there is a way. I was recently told of a popular method to rob a store blind while appearing to do everything properly and honestly.

Here’s how it works:

You do not scan your expensive steak, instead you turn the barcode from the scanner, and weigh it on the scales instead. You select a cheaper item – so instead of paying for steak, you pay for apples or a potato or something about the right weight. This allows you to put the item into the scaled bagging area, where it will be expected.

Nothing looks amiss; on the CCTV, you have scanned everything, and no alarms have been sounded. You pass through the door scanners too – you have a receipt, so you can even return items later. Everything appears above board.

So what can the shops do?

The answer to that might just be from Amazon – the new Amazon Go shops.

This idea seems a way to stop stealing – but on the other hand, it removes ALL the people – these stores do not need the same numbers of CCTV and store security personnel – and no till operators. Even if they are not foolproof (remember with each innovation comes innovation in crime), the saving in not paying staff might make it worth it.

I saw this with Uber recently too – they are having problems with trades unions and worker rights to the extent that they are heading down the driver-less car route.

The summary upshot and bottom line is that – as a result of petty crime over the years, the drive has been away from employees toward technology. The removal of people is what is going on. Less jobs, less face-to-face interaction, less embarrassment, less risk, and fewer thrills. Online shopping, cashless, credit cards and mobile smartphones, have heralded a new future where people are diminished in favour of technology.

I’m not sure I can make sense of this future – fewer jobs for people usually means fewer employed earners that are shoppers. We are being sold a future where we can shop without a queue and get a driver-less taxi, but can that be true? Will this only be for those few with jobs?

And what of those people with no jobs? Will they create an alt-society? Or will they innovate new criminal ways as before?

Only time will tell.

Sexism and Politics

The Trump sexism thing has really blown up.

Recently, the Washington Post found and shared a secretly recorded conversation (from 11 years ago) between Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush and Donald Trump. They were both lewd and Trump boasted that he can do anything he wants to women because he’s a television star – including “grabbing them by the pussy.”

Since then Trump has become the US Republican Presidential Nominee, so it’s a big deal – right? Sexism loses votes – doesn’t it?

I am not sure because of what happened in Australia with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, and the famous “Misogyny Speech” given by Julia Gillard on 9th October 2012.

At that time Julia Gillard was Australia’s first female Prime Minister (from 2010-2013), and she suffered a lot of lewd comments every single day as leader of the Labor Party and as PM. She was very often openly called a bitch and a witch, and widely mocked in the media. Her hair and clothes were always being commented upon, and all of it was about her gender – not her results, leadership, effective governance, debating style, intellect or politics. And she put up with it every day until she snapped and made the speech that went viral on the internet.

In this famous speech in parliament, she directly faced Tony Abbott – the Leader of the Opposition sitting across the forum – and let loose. She did not miss. She listed all the things he had said and done to her right to his face. It was a roast.

“I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man; I will not.”
– PM Julia Gillard about Tony Abbott

Gillard described comments by François Hollande and Helle Thorning-Schmidt: “The president of France congratulated me on the speech, as did the Prime Minister of Denmark, and some other leaders, just casually as I’ve moved around, have also mentioned it to me.” US President Barack Obama reportedly complimented Gillard on the speech in a private conversation following his re-election, and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, praised the speech as “very striking” with Gillard going “chapter and verse.”

Some dictionaries updated their definition of “misogyny”  from “hatred of women” to the broader “entrenched prejudices of women.”

This was a Big Deal – Global leaders’ support, viral video, dictionary redefinitions, massive support and encouragement… so what happened next?

Well, Tony Abbott got over his roast, everyone forgave him for the sexist comments he made and his world-famous misogyny… and he became Prime Minister of Australia from 2013 -2015.

So, hey, it’s just the way men talk, it’s Locker Room Banter; all bravado and silliness. Boys will be boys, eh?

And clearly perfectly natural, totally forgivable and totally forgettable.

 

 

The World’s Gone Mad

The World’s Gone Mad. I wonder that I think that because I’m old, and all old people think that the World’s Gone Mad. Then again, being old and thinking that doesn’t mean that the world has not gone mad, does it?

Let’s start with the SNP – a no-chance political party north of the border. They want Scotland to be independent – that is their only policy – and so they refuse to have anything to do with UK politics, refusing to take any seats they win in UK elections.

The devolved Scottish Parliament was designed specifically to prevent any political party getting a majority. The system uses a type of proportional representation to elect MSPs. This gives all political parties a say in devolved matters, with no single party dominating. In theory.

Without warning, the Labour Party suddenly collapsed and their voters all but disappeared in the Scottish election to leave an SNP with a vast majority. Wow.

Yes, the Labour Party suddenly becoming unpopular, changed everything – and kicked off a political revolution – not just for Scotland, but for the UK, Europe,and beyond.

This is because the SNP manifesto promised that if they ever got a majority, however unlikely, it would  automatically trigger an Independence Referendum.

Now the funny thing is that Scotland is, and has always been, independent – with its own laws and legal system, banks and bank notes – as well as culture, heritage and history. The referendum was about dissolving the United Kingdom – it was therefore about the monarchy (the unity of crowns), it was about being part of Great Britain. It was about rejecting something, a vote AGAINST rather than FOR anything specific (I say this because no-one knew what an Independent Scotland was supposed to be like).

The referendum is a simple FOR or AGAINST choice.

A vote was supposed to be either AGAINST the UK (a vote to leave and break up the union), or a vote FOR remaining the same (stay in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – the status quo).

In the end, the Scots voted FOR the UK – but despite this majority vote for the status quo, the Scots nevertheless got radical and fundamental change and more autonomy!

So both sides lost; nobody got what they voted for.

Democracy was suddenly in question – fuelled by social media. Angry at winning, angry at losing, people vented and quarrelled. The whole thing made everyone – on both sides of the border – very unhappy, and unhappy too with the system itself.

Soon after this, the UK held a scheduled General Election, and with Labour circling the drain, and the coalition finally dead, the Conservative and Unionist Party won an easy and large majority with David Cameron.

Just as with the SNP before, the Conservative & Unionist manifesto promised that if they ever got a majority, they would have to have an Independence Referendum regarding Europe. This was called “Brexit”.

Again, the referendum was a simple FOR or AGAINST choice.

The vote was supposed to be AGAINST the EU (a vote to leave and break from the union), or a vote FOR remaining the same (stay in the European Union – the status quo).

In the end, the Brits voted AGAINST the EU.

Had the Scottish vote been different, then the process of leaving the United Kingdom would have begun. Scotland would have been forced to create embassies, currency, armed forces, treaties and trade agreements – possibly applying to join the European Union to sit side-by-side with the rest of the UK.

There was a lot of debate about whether Scotland would have been able to quickly do the trade deals and EU thing. No-one seemed to know for sure. And that really surprised me.

How can we not know?

The majority of Scots voted for Britain to remain in the European Union, although no-one knows how many Scots would have voted for Scotland to remain in the European Union.

All that can be safely asserted is that Scots voted to remain in Britain and for Britain to remain in Europe. Scots voted as Brits, not as Scots.

Yet the SNP have decided that Scots voted for Scotland to remain in Europe, and because this is at odds with the rest of the UK, so another referendum ought to be called on leaving the UK.

Nevertheless, it is still unclear whether Scotland would be able to set up everything and join (or re-join) the EU. Still no-one knows what’s what.

No-one knows what would have happened if Scotland had voted to leave, no-one knows what will happen as a result of Britain voting to leave, and no-one knows if Scotland can claim a new right to leave the United Kingdom and join the European Union!

That’s a lot of things we don’t know. And these a big things. This is majorly disruptive stuff we’re talking about here – historically important and very expensive, and stuff that ought not to be taken lightly. It all matters – so The People are being asked to vote – and yet even at that no-one knows what is going on, no-one actually knows the legal position, the validity, the process, what is allowed, what is not. It is madness; how can anyone vote for something that may  or may not be valid or even understood?

The media has decided to focus on speculating about economic outcomes, rather than on the unravelling of red tape, and explaining the processes. This is possibly because no-one knows the pragmatic methods and procedures. It may even be that there are none, and we’re just making it all up as we go along!

What if we begin a process of the UK leaving the EU, negotiating treaties and trade deals and tariffs, and Scotland then concurrently begin a process of leaving the UK – and also then trying to stay in the EU? It’s a Gordion knot.

A black-and-white referendum is all-well-and-good when it returns a remain-the-same verdict.

The problems only surface when the vote is leave.

Putting aside the bewildering complexities of all that, let’s look at the referendum again – the vote was not FOR something, it was AGAINST membership of the EU. That’s a problem in itself.

OK, so Britain wanted to quit – that much we can know. In fact that is ALL we know. But we now need to ask the people to vote FOR something – to offer the choices this opportunity affords.

It seems strange that we are not getting another referendum/election on what Brexit should look like. Just like the pre Brexit scenario of cross party groups, we could easily imagine a bunch of politicians putting the case for a Norwegian or Swiss trading relationship with the EU, and another group asking for the vote for so-called “hard Brexit”. Then we could pick a way forward democratically.

Voting to leave is only half the job. It’s unfinished as a democratic exercise.

Yet this is not on offer.

OK, let’s allow that we have a democratic government, and so they are able to represent us, and our interests, without the trouble and expense of another referendum.

In other words, now that the people have voted AGAINST the EU, it’s up to the Commons and the Lords to thrash out the best way forward.

It seems reasonable to suggest that only after parliament has debated and decided what forward action to take, and what the the direction of travel of the country might be (taking into consideration the Scots), can the UK invoke article 50 of the treaty to begin renegotiating new terms with the European Union.

How can you come to the negotiating table without a clear idea of what you want and where you want to go?

Yet this is not on offer either.

So it seems that we have no shape or idea about what we want, or where we’re headed, we will simply trigger the leaving period (without considering Scotland, without asking the people of Britain, and without asking their representatives in both houses of parliament)  and see how it goes on an ad hoc basis.

In a couple of years we’ll pop out the other end with whatever we end up with.

No-one knows what that might be. No-one knows if the Scots will get another referendum. No-one knows if Scotland does leave the UK, if it will be able to join the EU.

The World Has Gone Mad.

I can’t believe that the laws are so poor, procedures are not in place to be followed, that everything is so uncertain, that no-one knows anything for sure, that there is so little clarity – why? There are all these treaties and agreements – are they all so badly written that it’s all up for interpretation?

What have the civil servants been doing all these years? Why give people a referendum without first having everything ready? How can you ask people to vote for or against without being able to clearly and fully explain what for and against actually means?

The Labour Party seems to have caused all this. Under the Ed Miliband’s leadership, they lost sufficient support in Scotland to allow the SNP to get a majority that triggered a referendum, and which allowed the SNP to take their seats in the UK parliament, which allowed the Conservatives to get a majority that triggered another referendum!

But the madness continues…

When Miliband resigned, the membership elected Corbyn, and all the MPs resigned because they have no confidence in Corbyn. A leadership challenge was mounted – but (again) no-one knew the rules and procedures!

It seemed clear that the intention behind the rules was such that if a leader is so bad that there are sufficient Labour MPs with”no confidence” in the leader, then that leader should be deposed, triggering a leadership contest to democratically a new leader.

It makes no sense to have a leadership contest that allows the overthrown leader to run!

Someone is so bad at being leader is allowed to stand for leadership – that is insane – especially when (a) Corbyn is the problem and (b) Corbyn is popular with the membership so therefore he’ll naturally win, and the contest would be a sham or farce.

There is no point in having a leadership contest that involves the problematic leader when the membership is a odds with the parliamentary group. The membership want Corbyn, the MPs don’t, so the MPs can call for a leadership contest, but the membership do the voting.

It’s a rigged game as long as Corbyn is allowed to run.

The World Has Gone Mad.

What amazes me most is that no-one knew for sure, no-one understood the rules, and that in the end, the chap who actually devised and wrote the rule in the Labour Party rulebook was overruled by the courts. It seems that his intentions were not legally tight enough, and so – forever – due to legal precedent (unless the rules are rewritten for some reason), there is absolutely zero point in ever having a leadership challenge in the Labour Party!

The courts were busy with all the legal challenges to this and to Brexit, to Scottish referendums and negotiations with EU states. All because no-one knows what’s going on and what’s supposed to happen.

Nuts.

Now, because Corbyn is popular among the party membership, but very unpopular with Labour MPs and with the general population,  the Labour Party is pretty unelectable for government, allowing the SNP to strengthen and to then undermine the UK. It also makes the Conservative party unbeatable, so they can wander toward Brexit unchallenged.

It’s all divisive. The lack of rules and a lack of clarity leads to quarrelling and division.

Meanwhile, members of the EU are supposed to be concerned that if the UK can leave and still trade easily with the EU, then other countries might think about leaving too.

But the reality is that they all know that the UK never took to the EU in the same way as they all did – they know we Brits insist on our funny power plugs, driving on the wrong side of the road, weighing each other in Stones, and holding onto pounds and pennies. We’re an island, so only the Brits have had to get a passport to holiday in mainland Europe – they can just get up and wander about the whole continent freely. A passport is about £80 – times that by four for a standard family holiday to see the obvious difference that has always existed between Europe and the UK.

Back in the day we were denied entry to the Common market by France, so Brexit is seen by some as long-overdue payback. They didn’t really want us, and we didn’t really want them either.We were there to balance the Nuclear Power that France had, to balance the economy of Germany, to stop one prevailing over the others. We remained aloof, and they will not miss us, but it will be interesting to see who thinks they are top dog now that we’re not there to referee.

The fact remains that no-one knows what will happen or how it will happen. There was going to be another big global downturn/ crash, but this stuff has just drawn attention away from that.

I always thought politicians and law makers had everything red taped up, that contingencies were planned, and things were painstakingly worded to provide absolute clarity in important matters. That’s what “authority” means. Or so I naively thought.

How sad I am that this has turned out to to be so, and that it is disgraceful. What a mess.

And don’t even get me started on that Clinton or The Donald! I wonder, though, if all this – being watched on TVs and on smartphones across the world – is raising questions about what politicians do, what can be done, what should be done, questions about vested interests, about constitutions, about power and where it lies. I think there has been a grass-roots change with respect to telling people your political views, that engagement has changed as a result of this.

Previously, people quarrelled on news and current affairs programmes in the media – they were engaged and interested and motivated in the traditional politics that had gone stale. The common man was excluded and apathetic. The internet age, the reality TV age, the social media meme age, means that – given a referendum situation – the apathetic common man is back engaged in politics, and it’s all on misinformation, made-up nonsense, viral memes, and all sorts of nasty, populist things like bigotry, nationalism, patriotism, religion and a backlash against the apathetic politics and political correctness that has ill-served the common man for too long.

A referendum gives the common man a voice. Not a democratic voice, but a simple choice for for or against, that is made on a whim or preference or gut feeling. Mob rule is never pretty, and the balance of votes is so close that all you get in the end is an angry, politicised and divided mob.

Add in Russia and North Korea and you HAVE to agree that the World Has Gone Completely Mad.

 

 

 

How to Get an Instant Divorce

I was once witness to the terrible consequences of loose talk, and have been very careful ever since.

This happened years ago. John and I were in the pub trying to chat up two girls who had already told us they were married.

I had seen this all before – girls who were married didn’t go out on the town by themselves. If they weren’t lying, then they were unhappily married. That was John’s theory, so we continued undeterred – and they seemed to like it (and us) – however, as the drinks flowed, talk got looser.

It turned out that Julie was indeed unhappy in her marriage, her husband was a useless unemployed drunk. She was fed up earning all the money and working long hours just so that he could lie on the couch all day drinking.

John had had a few by now. He knew he was too drunk now to make good any amorous advances, but his mind still worked, albeit without the usual constraints of caution, propriety and inhibition. This was one of those turning points. A game-changer.

He leaned forward and spoke so softly that we all had to lean in to glean what he was saying.

“I say you dump this guy and move on; you can do better for yourself and you’re not getting any younger.”

“But I can’t – he needs me, he depends on me…”

“No, no, not at all; you’re actually keeping him down. Cut him loose; it would be the best thing for him. Believe me.”

“But where would I go?”

“Go? No, you go nowhere – he goes.”

“But I can’t just throw him out without a reason.”

“Is he bad to you?”

“No, not really, he’s bad FOR me. As I said, he just does nothing. He’s always just lying there zonked out on the couch in front of the TV, a waste of space…”

“If I could tell you how to get rid of him in the quickest, easiest and most painless way possible, would you be interested to hear it?”

“I’m telling you he won’t go just like that, it won’t be easy …”

“But it could be; I know a way – and you’d be the hero too, you’d be the good guy and he’d be the bastard. Would you be interested in hearing the plan now?”

“Yes, I flippin’ would, because that’s nigh on impossible, John, seriously!”

“OK, here’s what you do: you go home, you find him zonked out on the couch as usual, dead to the world, right?”

“Right.”

“Right, so you carefully place the lamp on it’s side on the carpet, and do the same with ornaments, pictures, and whatever else you have. Make it look like there’s been a struggle and things have been knocked over. You can even extend the idea to another room, pour something on the carpet, whatever.”

“And all this while he’s drunk asleep on the couch?”

“Exactly. Now you need to rip your blouse, get your hair pulled this way and that, ruin your make-up. Girls can do wonderful things with make-up. All that matters is that you have to look like you’ve been beaten up in a big struggle. Then pick up the phone in the other room and cry and sob and wail down it that he’s gonna kill you and plead for help to the police.”

We all stopped and looked at John. Julie’s eyes were as big as her surprise could make them.

“But the police will arrive and wake him up – he’ll just say he didn’t do it…”

“Ah, but,” John said, “They won’t believe him – they’ll see you, they’ll see the state of the place, and they’ll drag him out of there in two seconds flat.”

I chipped in: “Just say he passed out waiting for you to come out from hiding or something.”

“But – and I’m only asking for the sake of argument – what would happen next? Wouldn’t he just get let off a warning or something” Julie asked.

“Well, the police will warn him not to visit you because you would have seen a lawyer.”

“A lawyer?”

“Yes, a lawyer – to stop this violence once and for all…”

“What violence?”

“All the months and years of suffering that he’s put you through, and that you so skillfully hid from the world. The physical and mental torture you kept behind closed doors, you poor thing!”

“Jeez. He’d deny everything…”

“Yeah, and who’s gonna believe an unemployed drunkard who beats his caring wife and then blacks out?”

And that is how the evening went. Drinks were drunk, thoughts were thought, drunks were ejected onto the street, into cabs, and home to sleep it all off. It was just chat, it was pub banter. We knew she wouldn’t have the gumption to carry out such a nefarious plan – who could?

Look, she must have loved the guy to get married in the first place. She must still love him if she’s been putting up with him as he is. And like most women, she probably thinks she can change him. And like most wives, she’ll be long-suffering.  If they don’t survive, or prevail, after a fashion, they’ll eventually split up somewhere down the line – because that is what happens.

That is what is supposed to happen.

But Julie did listen, and what she heard resonated within her. She had the power now, and she liked that. She could be proactive, she could pull the plug any time that she wanted, and that was excitingly empowering.

When she got home to find her once-beloved lying on the couch pissed, and beside him was a half-finished takeaway curry and a splash of vomit drying into her good carpet,  she realised that she was no longer in the mood for all this.

.oOo.

It was six months before I was back in that particular bar. I was early to meet up with a couple of pals I hadn’t seen since uni, and there she was in a booth. I caught her eye and nodded in polite recognition – the usual cursory acknowledgement before turning to the barman. She was suddenly beside me.

“I did it!” She pulled on my elbow.

“Eh? What? You did it?”

“Yeah – I did it. I got rid of Charlie!”

“Charlie?”

“Aw, don’t you remember? We were all here a few months back and your pal John came up with a scheme to help me get rid of Charlie…”

“Nah! No way! Are you saying you did one of John’s madcap schemes? You took all that seriously?”

“I am – and I did!” She beamed.

“Jeez. You seem happy on it…”

“I am indeed. Never been happier – I have a new man too.” She indicated a chap over in the booth. “He’s great. We’re great. Together. It’s night and day. John turned my life around – when’s he coming in?”

“Oh, he’s not – I am not meeting up with him tonight, just other pals as it happens.”

“Ah, well, I wish he was coming because I would just like to than him for being a genius!”

“Did it all go to plan then?”

“To the letter. Charlie didn’t know what hit him! You know what’s most funny about all this? Charlie believes he’s been blacking out and battering me. He believes it himself!”

“You’re joking!”

“No – it’s been the best thing for him too; he’s dried out, sorted himself out, turned his life around. He’s even about to start a wee job! I just cannot thank you two enough! If Charlie knew, he’d probably thank you too!”

And that was that. From a careless, half drunken rant, a dream schemed up on a lager’d evening to pass the time – an amusing diversion… to wham! And lives have changed forever! Cause and effect. Consequences.

And before you think that it all worked out for the best – just as Julie told me – it didn’t.

Julie’s was only one side of the story.

Charlie’s version was rather different as we found out later… but that’ll keep for another time.

 

Facebookery

I got a new phone and facebook doesn’t like it.

It finally killed me.

Here’s the thing with smartphone apps – they are too difficult for me to read; I can’t adjust the font or text size.

The solution is simple – just use the browser. Web pages can be zoomed in.

However, since getting my new phone and browser, every time I try to visit facebook, it locks me out of the account and sends me an email.

Then, when I say it is me after all, facebook insists that I change my password.

The first time is annoying; who likes thinking up passwords? After a while, it gets more tricky to think up a new password that contains some kind of memorable rationale.

Today it finally got me beat. I can’t remember the password, so it’s goodbye facebook I suppose.

I will take this as a sign that a break is needed. If I return, I will have to think up a new name but my password can return to my original one! On the other hand, it is a lot of setting up – and that is daunting; it took me ages to get into all those groups, to like all those pages, and to get facebook providing me the feed experience that kept me coming back to be updated on music and arts.

I suppose I can put those energies into twitter, wordpress, feedly and so forth, because one thing is for sure – I can’t go back to being fed news and sport on mainstream media.

Another One Bites The Dust

I am getting concerned now.

Another work colleague has died.

This one was a high speed collision involving a young BMW driver on the wrong side of the road on a fast bend, and my colleague on a motorbike, with his wife on the back.

Both on the bike died, there is a lot of speculation about what will happen to the young driver. It was particularly nasty as they found his head, still in helmet, quite some distance from the scene.