At the End of the Day

methink2Twitter said that England supporters were ‘excited ahead of the Colombia game’. I suppose I would be too if I was there, but of course they must be careful not to wave English flags (say Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office toadies) because otherwise the wicked Russian authorities might arrest/poison/deport them – so bitter are they about how Mr Jobsdone caught them red-handed as they tried to poison two innocent Brits called Skripal with the dreaded nerve agent New Stuff.

Having put an estimated 15,000 English supporters off travelling to the World Cup, our Foreign Secretary then changed his mind about personally boycotting “Hitler’s 1936” rerun from Vladimir Rasputin. So if our fans seem a little thin on the ground, you know who to blame.

Boris has clearly sniffed which way the wind is blowing. Although he no doubt disagrees with the MCC’s spineless decision to place Lingard at Silly-mid-on, Man of the People BoJo has spotted that Spain, Germany, Portugal, Argentina and pretty much all the teams capable of thrashing Our Boys have been inexplicably run out. Even as I write, Johnson is careening around Moscow in search of Umpires to bribe, and Colombians happy to take the shine off their new balls with a little pre-match pocket billiards.

In the end – a Central/South American/African feature of this World Cup – the Colombians decided to ignore football in favour of wrestling, hugging, nutting and rolling about on the ground. It wasn’t a substitute for talent. FIFA, as ever, failed miserably to prosecute it.

I apologise sincerely to American readers, very few of whom will have understood a word of this.

Some years ago, I posted to the effect that nobody ever started a successful global charity by saying, “I’m having trouble with my swimming pool”.

Yes, I admit it, I have a swimming pool. I also have a large house in two acres of land in South West France. At the moment – thanks to EU Brexit intransigence and British Government Fifth Column cowardice – the property is worth about €200,000 less than I’ve invested in it. On the other hand, I’ve owned it for twenty years, and only paid the equivalent of €95,000 for it in 1998. Over those two decades, my kids and extended family have had forty or more fabulous holidays out of it….and you can’t put a value on that. And on the third hand that none of us have, I worked my nuts off over three decades to afford it.

Years of brainless “lifestyle” television along the lines of Getaway Gardeners’ Place in the Sun Makeover programming have convinced many of Thatcher’s formerly left wing children to invest in the French property market, and thereafter enjoy a life of alleged ease in the land of cheap booze, chique women and gentle sun. But as always, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The lunches here may be closer to €15 a head than £40, but in no way are they free.

The first thing you have to do is find the time to eat lunch in the first place. Over the last ten days, for example, I have been variously Pool man, Lawn boy, Lumberjack, Bramble hacker, Tree protector, Log cutter, Wasps’ nest genocidist, woods thinner, carpenter, snake killer, garden planter, branch lopper, hedge trimmer, weed burner, fruit gatherer and blogger. I’m up at 6 am most days and – apart from a siesta from 2pm until 4 pm – rarely call it a day before 8 pm.

“Nice problem to have,” you say, and I agree fully. But buying in services, using computers, investing in mechanical stuff and employing labour hammers home a truth I first learned  in senior corporate management, and have held more and more as a core learning as the years passed: we all need to be able to rely upon people and things, and craft-skilled people are more reliable than things. People are far from perfect, but they only rarely drive one to the high doh of frustration involved in dealing with things.

I have a talented maçonnier (stonemason) who has specialised in pool technology. I also have a laptop with access to the internet. The maçonnier can impart more wisdom in three minutes (on, say, why my pool is dark brown not crystal clear) than any online site I’ve ever been to. The internet can impart more irrelevant, overcomplicated, misleading, dishonest and allround useless codswallop during eight hours of putting words into Google’s mouth than any artisan I’ve ever encountered.

Every year, I approach the opening and cleaning of the pool and its surrounding flagstones (the French call them, misleadingly, la plage) with the following equipment: chlorine, water analysis kit, net for clearing out big crap, vacuum pipe for sucking out small crap, floculent to make the small crap sink to the bottom so the vacuum pipe can suck it up more effectively, high-pressure water cleaner for the plage, chlorine ‘choc’ for killing algae, pH powder for rebalancing the ecological damage caused by the choc, long-reach poled brush for agitating the algae away from the liner, robot vacuum for taking medium-sized crap off the pool bottom on an everyday basis after the other more terrifying crap has been annihilated, surface net for saving suicidal toads, multifunction pastilles for maintaining the cleanliness balance at a level where bathers don’t develop a second head and noses that light up in the dark, portable electric branch lopper to tackle nature’s fightback against idiots with swimming pools, and Me….said idiot.

This is the casualty list so far. The floculent has caused the crap to rise to the top (not bottom as advertised) the water-gun is spraying everywhere but chiefly over me, the chlor choc has killed the algea but the water is still green, the vacuum pipe system is blocked, seven toads have been saved, and the branch lopper is on strike, the colour shade of the water is lighter but still not willing to give a clue as what’s going on in depths greater than one metre, and Me? Well, I’m knackered. (See multi-tasking para earlier for guidance as to why).

So I rang my maçonnier mate, and he said, “Empty the pool, I’ll come round with a serious vacuum cleaner and clean out the sh*t, then refill the pool with new water. Job done”.

Now there is a macro point to this micro case history, and it is this: the lunatics in charge of Planet Earth are putting their faith in machines, robots, software and badly made mechanical crap…..and rendering human beings jobless and potentially anti-social in order to achieve that twisted aim. My objection to this is far too easily rejected as Luddite: but it is nothing of the sort. Humans, for all their myriad faults, acquire eclectic wisdom, talk to each other, and adapt to circumstances. Machines, tools and software do not. Human beings create society via culture. Lifeless systemics create anything from at best nothing, to at worst unthinking mayhem.

I am not and never have been a socialist or a neoliberal. The main reason for that is I will always place Homo sapiens (and all life on our planet) above system theory, élite greed and the sort of online software bollocks alongside hardware malfunction that is replacing real jobs and real service.

I do not see anyone among the trendy Corbynista, Momentum and Antifa axis of stale anarchism evincing that reality. And as for the voices of conservatism, they too lack the vision to grasp the difference between humanity and soulless mammon.