Monday, November 1, 2010

Of Lakes, The Dead, and Random Thoughts

A few thoughts on things, some bitter, some sweet, some whimsical, some mildly interesting, perhaps, some will never be written because it's nearly time for dinner, but, while some believe that a blog post should be a self-contained, internally consistent and coherent piece setting out and explaining an idea or series of ideas from start to finish (who are these people?) others say that if a post doesn't end like this... it isn't a blog post at all. Whether any of this this is relevant I couldn't say. I once met a chap in a pub in Hampstead High Street who believed he was Peter Cook*, so it's hard to say that belief tells us anything about what is, or what should be.

In any case, today is All Saints' Day, which is a holiday over here. It's a family day, there's nothing public about its observance (ie the government doesn't use it as an excuse to spend our money enjoying themselves or doing propaganda), and most people just use it to relax with their families and many take the chance to visit the cemetery and remember their dead.

Florists make a fortune on Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and All Saints' Day, opening all over the previous weekend and on the day itself, and by the cemetery there are stalls covering the entrance road with bright colours and the chatty banter which all market traders use to enliven the business of standing around for hours flogging plants. It's not a sad occasion, unless you've lost someone in the previous year. You meet everyone there, and can catch up with a bit of news, or arrange a dinner party over the hallowed ground containing the late Aunt Prado or whoever.

You have to fight your way along some of the paths, past the bored children who have turned into oblivious statues while they wait for their parents to stop yapping to someone they've met or gawping with artificially serious expressions at the tomb of a grandparent they never met; past the middle-aged spinsters diligently scrubbing down the marble and cutting all the flowers to exactly the same length because it's a way of looking and feeling useful; past the groups of gypsies crowding around a massive structure typically involving life-sized rococco angels with vacant faces, random religious symbols at odd points on the 10-foot high tombstone, giant photos of the deceased, and more flowers than you would have thought could be possibly be attached to the last resting place of cousin Eduardo without bringing the whole thing crashing to the ground. Gypsies have large familes, they take their late relatives very seriously indeed, and they have execrable taste in the paraphernalia of death. To an observer of human nature a cemetery on such a day is a fascinating place. It was warm and sunny as well.

To the farm this weekend. A bit damp, but the waterlands are greener than ever. The waterfall crashes as never before and the wind that plays with the surface of the lakes creates livelier and more interesting patters than usual, and the birds that live there are happier now that the people are gone. They don't care aboutr a bit of wind and rain, and they have the insects and the fish to themselves. The place has a different beauty in autumn, a rougher, tougher beauty, a manly attraction that the sun-worshippers don't know how to see.

On another note, I saw this at the EUObserver. I make no claim to be an economist, but I know bollocks when I hear it, and this struck me as A-grade whiffle designed to make us think it's more than blinkered political ranting. At the very least his assertion that George Osborne is 'emasculating the welfare state', by increasing its budget by slightly less than a Labour government would have done, is a hysterical exaggeration and not a good premise on which to build any kind of argument if you want to be taken seriously. I ran it by someone who does know about economics and he confirms that Irvin is essentially a Marxist, in the sense that he simply cannot understand the function of markets, and that nothing he says should be considered economics, only politics.

Addendum: This is from the Indie, a magnificent example of a vacuous space-filler column by a tedious woman who's been recycling the same stuff for many years, commented on by dozens of people, none of whom has a clue what they're talking about, but is going to give their opinion anyway, because they can. Q: How do you make politics out of drinking water? A: When you have newspaper columns to sell. That's all the rest of us need to know.**

*Oddly enough, he knew this belief to be false, despite his profound belief in its truth, and despite the fact that he really was Peter Cook. These statements are not logically incompatible, though they may not in fact be true...

**I'm something of an obsessive about water, in fact. I  am convinced that most people would feel better and their organs would last longer if they drank much more water than they do, but I tend to bore my friends with this, rather than writing columns in newspapers and accosting strangers in the street. And I know something about the subject, unlike the commenters at the Indie.***

***I'm rather disappointed in the Indie. The Telegraph is little more than a comic these days, the Times doesn't want anyone to read it, the FT requires you to pretend to be three different people to get to the interesting bits, and the Guardian is the Guardian, which leaves the Independent as the only paper worth reading. Rather disturbing, really. And then you discover it is also full of utter rubbish.

Deborah dearest, if you don't want to drink water at a particular moment, then don't. No one is going to force you. It isn't actually a problem. But of course, you have a column to write, and nothing to say...

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