The Question

” Can I ask you a question? ”

Sure, go ahead.

” Do you like questions? ”

Ummm. Well, I’ve never really thought about it. I mean – questions just are, if you get what I mean…

” Do you like rhetorical questions? ”

Ah, there I can say a definite No. They always seem such a contrivance. They tend to stop a conversation, rather than start it.

” I knew you would say that, didn’t I? ”

What? If you knew I would say that why did you ask in the first place?

“What would you say if I told you that if you hadn’t answered in the first place you wouldn’t have to ask, now would you? Can’t answer that, can you? ”

My head hurts. Go away.

 

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Why Brexit?

I have been pondering for some months about the whole Brexit situation – as an outsider before they voted, I could only speculate about the issues and frame of mind of the pro and anti voters. But as it seems to have been decided in the affirmative, I can concentrate more on the question of why. I’m still and outsider, but the question is now…Why did Great Britain vote to end its connection with the European Common Market or European Union? Here’s some possibilities:

  1. The new formation of a European army was a timely reminder of the last few times the Europeans have formed armies under Napoleon, Hitler, etc. and of what Europeans would like to do with their armies. There’s only one tunnel under the Channel but there’s always the Channel.
  2. The trade and farming regulations from Brussels that prevent some British farmers from working their land for produce and profit are a thorn in the side.
  3. The ready supply of illegal migrants camping in France and other places with an eye to getting to the UK and disappearing is a daunting prospect.
  4. The continued prospect of propping up spendthrift regimes and dole bludgers in the sunnier climes of the Mediterranean is a particular annoyance to people who live in the damp climate of Wales and other rural portions of the UK. They might as well spend the money on parish cases at home.
  5. Why not?
  6. The French have hated the English since the time of the King Henries. In the last century they dragged them into two world wars, and left them to play the last one out by themselves for years. Then they supplied De Gaulle to make it all better. The French idea of better may not be the same for the rest of us…
  7. The English do not trust the French or Germans. Or the Italians, for that matter.
  8. The loss of the Empire and the colonies was traumatic. But there was still the Commonwealth. With the EEC and EU experiment, a lot of the Commonwealth interest drifted away. If they Brexit the European door shut, they might re-open the Commonwealth door.

There’s no new political insight in there, but it does go some cynical way to supplying reasons. If it proves a bad idea – like the First World War or convict transportation – you can always blame the Manchester Board Of trade and the Admiralty. Or Trump and the Americans. But don’t blame them too hard in case you need Lend-Lease and Spam again.

Say You’re Sorry

This phrase is one of those things that authority uses when it has lost control of a situation. When the child, or doctor, or second lieutenant has gone and done something that can neither be condoned nor hidden. It is the phrase that attempts to disconnect the owner from the dog after it has bitten the baby.

Uh-uh. If you have not bothered to prevent the disaster, it is no good trying to make the thing better by getting a minion to grovel. If there has been no moral responsibility beforehand there is precious little of it afterwards.

It is also a phrase we see when someone has decided that injustices to someone’s ancestors can be punished in current days  – generally by an effusion of crocodile tears and public money. In a pinch they are prepared to forego the tears…

I should be interested to see someone take the opposite injunction – ” Say you’re not sorry ” and see where it might be correctly applied. I think it would make many activists and a great many of their lawyers unhappy.

 

It’s All The Fault Of…

San Andreas.

” Wait? What? ”

The San Andreas Fault. The geological crack that is going to split open one day and drop California into the Pacific Ocean. The favoured bogey of the Hollywood disaster movie maker. The sliding magma plate that we have all come to loathe and fear. All the fault of the San Andreas.

” You’re mad. You’ve finally gone mad. How could the San Andreas Fault be responsible for the world’s troubles. It hasn’t even shifted yet. ”

Exactly. By delaying the shift it has condemned us to decades of California. Years of Hollywood. Years of Los Angeles and smog and Watts and Tijuana. Years of San Francisco and drugs and socio-sexual city councils. Years of Mexican migrants and anti-Mexican presidents. Years of Ansel Bloody Adams and boring Sierra Club landscapes.

” But…”

If the blessed thing had shifted fifty years ago the painful sixties could have been devoted to blasting Castro and area-bombing Hanoi and Jane Fonda would have been  Barbarella instead of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunner. We would likely have been spared LBJ and Nixon. And Whitlam and Abbott for that matter. Though they might have been seen as  purely Australian faults.

” I can see your point. Perhaps if we all go to Santa Barbara and jump up and down we can get the damn thing started. ”

Hang on, I’ll get my shoes.

To A Club Bore

I do not call thee fool or knave, yet you I’d shun as shun a grave.

For in thy head sit thoughts unknown: I speak to brain – I’m dumb to bone.

Your plaints and pleas no fire hath lit – I’ve long despaired of sharing wit.

I long to leave, yet always stay – the clubman’s life is sad that way…

We spend our gold on yearly fee and put in pawn our liberty.

Oh, for the courage to depart – before you break our very heart –

A club’s a fine thing wielded well – but in your hand’s a stroke from Hell.

The bestest hope’s to turn your gaze to other victims – other days –

And slink away despite the taunt – relinquish gold and suffer want.

Find other clubs and other sports – and leave you to your rants and rorts.

I do not mind your sneer or spurn – but Oh, Dear Lord, please let me learn…

 

” I Don’t Think You’re Funny! “

” Sorry to hear about your problem. But keep at it – if you try to have a thought every day – even a little one – eventually thinking comes easier.

But thank you for the complement in the latter part of your speech. You might leave a little pause between the first sentence and the second, so people understand that there is a full stop there… ”

Well, there you go. A ready-made Uncle Dick squelch for the person at a party who wants to be offended and take over your conversation upon that basis. You could cede it to them by apologising for whatever it was you said – but you would have a difficult time getting it back. This way you leave them wondering what the holes are on both sides of their mental cockpit and what that whizzing noise was. It was a 40mm Bofors squelch.

There are lots of what the Readers Digest used to call Perfect Squelches to be had – and  lots of times when they are needed – but unfortunately we often miss the cue and fail to fire. Or we are a little slow in the fusing, and the target flies away. A squelch delivered too late bounces off the ground and can detonate in your face.

The best thing to do is practise – and nowadays we are given this opportunity nearly every day when the Indian call centre scammers ring up to try to take control of our computers. There is a brief pause after you lift the telephone receiver and then often a hiss or the sound of a background camel market as the scammer reels out their spiel – you can have up to ten seconds to collect your wits, fuse a squelch, slam it into the breech, and reach for the trigger.

Use these scammers as practise targets. Do not be rude or profane – don’t even be vulgar. Be nice. Be logical. Be honest. Draw a bead on them and tell them that you are Billy The Old Kid and that you rob railway trains as a pension. Tell them that are looking for a Russian bride but all the agencies will offer is Vladimir Putin in a dress. Tell them that you are the ghost of John Diefenbaker looking for butter tarts. Do it in a serious voice.

Note: When an Indian scammer blows up the results can be spectacular. They are only human, after all, and it must be hot and sticky there in the market. They are often only one call away from running amok.

Touching A Land Mine With A Barge Pole

Also known as ignoring the warning bells and the voices in your head.

We have all done it at some stage of our lives, but I address myself to those who have not quite reached that stage. Unlike Wells Fargo, this stage doesn’t have a guard with a shotgun on the front seat.

We will all encounter situations where there is a little internal voice – or a faint hint – that tells us to back away. To avoid engaging. To be quiet and do it quickly. If we are intelligent, we listen to those voices. There may also be tiny silver bells, or submarine diving klaxons. In any case they invite us to heed and hold off. And how often have we ignored them…and ploughed ahead to disaster.

I can think of a dozen times when discretion would have been the better part of valour and disinterest the better part of friendship. Yet I only acceded to the call of wisdom in half of the cases – and got 6 bruises for the other half. I’ve lost money, friends, reputation, goods, and self-esteem by barging wildly into situations that needed me to be somewhere else.

This was bad news for me over the years, but fortunately each mental scar has the decency to throb in wet weather and remind me of itself – and I have gotten old enough to take lessons from my own past. I may not remember dates of battles won, but I do remember defeats. Each one has helped me far more than the victories.

I recently had an opportunity to step into the breach and ” do the right thing ” and cover myself with self-love…and I looked at the ceiling and walked on by. I also deliberately avoided doing bad things to good people and/or becoming a living saint. And I think I shall be much happier in all cases for it. I know how quickly good works can turn into bad times.

Land mines blast far further than barge poles can reach.