Thursday, 9 April 2009

Talk of Angels and Song of Songs

Now is November 8th and I have stayed up to watch a film about romantic love just before the Spanish Civil War commenced in 1936, eighteen years after the end of Great War, between two Catholics, one a governess unsure about marrying her homeland Irish fiancée, and the unhappily married son of her Spanish employer. Jennifer Lopez plays one of the daughters educated in the family home. Talk of Angels is a beautifully photographed film of a Kate O' Brien novel which captures the flavour of the dilemma facing the educated middle classes who disliked the fascists, and had sympathies for the, socialists, communists and anarchists who wished to destroy them as power in the land. I went to see a bull fight once much the same as our heroine, curious to understand why the Spanish regarded the activity as an art form. What I saw in Barcelona was the ritual killing of Bulls without honour about the same level as World Wrestling contests which some children seem to adore, except it involved the cold blooded slaughter of a creature for pleasure rather than necessity. Being Kate she delivers a well craft blow at the Catholic church by depicting an unscrupulous priest with paedophile tendencies.

I then decided to work on which was a mistake as I think I fell asleep at the desk, perhaps momentarily and then could not sleep when I went to bed, rising again to play some computer chess, (writing commuter). It was a wretched time until I remembered how my mother had faced her final years and days. Hopefully she has taught me how to cope which such times better.

I have had two hard working days and one so so, so Talk of Angels was the second film of the evening with DVD of Song of Songs, not the 1930's Marlene Dietrich, but a recent English film about a Jewish family, father said to have committed suicide, mother apparently dying of Cancer, a weird dangerously aggressive son who rejects his faith and a devout daughter returning for religious study in Israel to care for her mother and full of pent up sexuality needing the return of her brother for it to explode. I did not enjoy this film or like the brother, but this was a noble first effort which obtained financial support from individuals and a monster technical cast for a first feature. It is a serious well scripted film with a fine performance by the daughter. On the DVD is a short film about getting old and being in care, which everyone should see as it says all there is to the say about this reality. It will not change the inevitability of what an increasing number will face, but should enable more to become better prepared.

In between the two films I watched 60 years of BAFTA which was a puzzle of an evening which I did not understand why, why bother with sixty that is?. Why honour Coronation Street over Eastenders?
The feeling emerged of a bias towards ITV, the Channel showing the programme. However the programme was clever at showing montages, especially for Coronation Street while it interposed current performers into scenes covering the decades. I have a collection of video on the various characters bought for a relative to enjoy in their final years. little I did I expect at the time that during long periods when my mother was asleep in hospital I would do the Coronation Street quiz game on the individual TV, Games, Internet and phone console, and for seven days my mother's initials held all top five places on the leader board.

There were other good montages and the line up of Upstairs Downstairs had the Aldertons looking their ages as did other members of the cast still with us. There were some good guest appearances Anthony Andrews having lost his eternal youth look, Sharon Osborne with Miss Piggy and it was good to see Dickie Attenborough so well, while Lord Melvin Bragg does not age. Stanley Baxter at 80 brought back good memories But why was Victoria Wood asked to close the show, she was clever funny but not top billing. Two unknowns did their best to replicate the Morecombe and Wise 'Stripper' in the kitchen sequence. All it did is underline the brilliant timing of the departed and how funny they were too look at. If the programme was designed to make us look forward to future the future of comedy then it failed miserably.

On November 5th 2007 I awoke and slept several times after a series of dreams which covered familiar themes although in new settings. I was slow in getting my act together and the first feeling of frustration arose over the fact that I messed up last night when reaching 36 second level games of computer chess, I am going backwards have previously reached over 50 games then over 40, several short runs of less or over ten, and then with renewed application to 36, and then after that over night and on first here to 12 and then I did not see a checkmate. It is not a waste of time as it sharpens the focus and hardens resolve, and got me going onto work of more importance in my scheme of things. Today on waking up I progressed once more from 10 to 15 games. Given that there are ten levels I am more likely to complete 100.75 than achieve 101 games at each level at this rate of progress. I will have to learn even greater patience and application.

I am making too many excuses why I have not made the required progress in losing weight, getting the house in order, and the ongoing work programme for 100.75 so I can tackle a major writing activity. So I gave myself a good talking to and set to work. However I know that intention and ambition is one thing and sustained effort day after day is another.
It was a clear blue sky morning on Monday but cold which required the central heating for an hour. The sky is similar now but the heating is not required. By Tuesday morning I had made progress attending to household records, some correspondence and drafts, having overnight brought the development work up to date together with a volume on the Great War which includes all my writings over the past three weeks, together with internet acquired information and the Daily Mail cuttings. I checked on Monday evening and found that I only have one small book dedicated to the Great War, picture and accounts of what is was like at the Somme and the Verdun, which are the images which haunt most people about the War although as the DVD it was a war involving 65 million men, mostly young.

(However I have buying books, DVD's although one or two CD's such as the Amy Winehouse which has become hypnotic. I know that to go on with what I have done is a kind of vote for a long life future, but the approach of three score years and ten, on going enquiries into the death of my aunt and the recent death of my mother producer's a reality about the nature of my future existence).

Fought on the Russia Austria Hungary borders, on the Italian Austrian border, from Greece up through the Balkans, and it was the collapse of Bulgaria which is recorded as having made the German High Command know that they had end the fighting, although it was another month before they understood and accepted there was no alternative to the surrender terms of the allies once the cities and towns started to rebel and the country was on the verge of revolution as the Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland. The DVD's make it all seem yesterday, helped by the discipline of trying to relate everything present to its past.

Tuesday was the State opening of Parliament, the first major opportunity that the Prime Minister had to restore confidence in him and his political party. I could have accepted the decision to call an early election if the intention was to bring forward different policies and legislation from that put before the country at the General Election, but the Queen's speech did not do so. He alone or together with his close advisers, has created a rod which is likely to not just to restrict holding the office to the rest of this Parliament, but lose the Party power. However the seeds of all this were sown when many on the government back benchers failed to remember that divided you fall, particular if you air division sin public. Too many are only happy when in opposition.

I continue to have mixed feelings about the grandeur of the Opening of Parliament ceremony. There was too much evidence of aristocratic wealth bordering on the indecent, especially when the camera fixed on one individual wearing tens of thousands pounds worth of diamond tiara, a necklace pendant sapphires or rubies and a real fur coat, I did not expect to hear Gordon announcing the abolition of the Lords, and I suppose it is good for the tourist image and encourages those already wealthy to stay here and aspire to have the right to participate in the event one day, but what message does it send to the poor and dispossessed in the UK and around the globe? Another cause for mixed feelings is the new St Pancras Euro Tunnel high speed train terminal. The great Hotel of the British Empire has been made as good as new and the station has a beautiful grand style with sixty top notch shops, bars and restaurants including the biggest champagne bar in the world. The President of the company claimed that the most beautiful station in Europe had been created which again is good for the commercial and tourist image for those at the top with money and position and to encourage the rest to dream.

This is the difference between the UK and America. There it remains possible to move from immigrant to wealth and power in one generation, and while there will only be a few to achieve this, there is a sense of hard fought equality in status, even though the normal tendency to raise the drawbridge will also be there. Here you feel there are still insiders and outsiders. However the changing nature of Britain and the number of new Britain's should bring about a fundamental difference.

I am still not sure if we are creating the right brand image for the UK until we spend what is required on our infra structure, such as the money required on speeding up the new drainage system for London which is to be built over time, a giant new pipe system to be tunnelled alongside the present river, sometimes at great depth with the biggest tunnelling machine of all time 300 metres long and over three storey's of a house wide.

Before the Queen's speech I became hungry so made a prawn omelette having acquired two for one carton of prawns on a visit to Morrison's at Jarrow on Monday evening. It is nearly time, midday for the other. (An unsurprising slow start). Having taken to sea bass it looks as if I have missed season or the fish is disappearing to overseas sales as is most of the catch outside of cod and place and perhaps trout which always appears on the fishmongers slabs. I mention this because I bought two what for me are large Trout as £1.10 an £1.20 pence each. One to eat this week and one frozen for next. I need some more frozen smoked Mackerel. The problem is I do not enjoy Trout as a fish on its own as I do others. I think I am going concentrate even more on fish than meat for my nutrition, although I only have red meat once a week and I have had my last bacon butty until I can look the scales in the eye again.

The political proceedings commenced in the afternoon after everyone had had a celebratory lunch. This part of the day is full of fun as two Members are rewarded with the opportunity to give speeches of thanks to the Queen and take the opportunity to talk about their constituencies, their pet interests and to entertain the House with good jokes. It is then the turn of the Leader of the Opposition, then the Prime Minister and the Liberal Democrats before the rest get the opportunity to have a general say, and then subsequent days are used to attention to selected subjects including Home Office matters tomorrow and Local Government on Thursday. This marks the difference with the USA in a big way as the State of the Union address, although a Party political is a national occasion to present America to the world as a diverse but united people's. What happened at Westminster did no one, let alone the country any credit. It will not change until one of the major parties has the guts to radically reform the way Parliament operates and eliminates Prime Ministers Question time in its present form, holding the Prime Ministers to account by requiring attendance, like other Ministers before select committees from time to time.

The first speaker of the afternoon was the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Central whose name I did not know (David Blunkett who made his name first as Chairman of Sheffield Social Services and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities Social Services Committee, became Council Leader and Home Secretary in the Blair Government) is the Member Sheffield Brightside, and there is also a constituency in the city held by one of the two candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party. As Sports Minister the contributor was part of the team which won the Olympic Committee and was due to retire as a Member of the Commons at the next General Election which was to have been before the Queen's Speech and therefore no one was more surprised than he to being given the honour, although it did emerge that he shared a parliamentary room with the present Prime Minister, and that in his role as the new Government Ambassador to bring the 2018 Football World Cup to the UK, and the seconder, who is the Member for Brent, the constituency of the new Wembley Stadium had been together at a recent match there. May give a clue to one aspect of the Prime Minister's style. The seconder was a young attractive black woman, unique in the composition of the Commons and who will be fighting for her political life when constituency boundary changes take effect with an also young but white leading Liberal Democratic member in and area which has become a largely immigrant population over the past five decades. The seconder was impressive and earned the praise of the Prime Minister and Opposition leader, although the Liberal Democratic spokesman for the day was understandably grudging because of the position of his colleague.

The fun stuff over the Leader of the Opposition indulged in a clever, perhaps too clever debating political punch up of a speech which delighted his followers and made many on the Labour side cringe as he delivered several accurate and hurtful blows on the Government Party body politic, especially on the indecision about the holding of a General Election. One felt he was getting under the PM's skin and I wondered how the PM would react given what has been recently revealed about aspects of his temperament. My conclusion on the opposition attack was that it was very effective for political insiders and proving that he is a better political fighter than previously given credit however it could not mask that he lacks gravitas as an individual, that his reservoir of previous political positions and statements is often at odds with what he is required or feels required to take as Party Leader in present circumstances and political polling. You get the impression of a man feeling his way into the position gained which makes placing power in his hands a risk, but this does not mean he would fail.

The approach of the Prime Minister was impressive, rising above the knockabout stuff at first to concentrate on what the government was doing and had done, and then skilfully, and forcefully, exposing the weakness of the position of the Opposition Leader and his party's policies.

Then he went a step too far and instead of delivering a knock out punch was floored, but got up still fighting, but the knock down raises serious questions about his advisers and longevity. He turned on the Opposition Leaders pressing him to answer an issue on the holding of a referendum over the new European Community Treaty. The point was a good one as the Conservative position is to exploit previous government commitments and popular opposition to the whole idea of Europe, knowing that the Treaty will be approved by Parliament but the Government damaged, although they have no intention to then hold an referendum. They are politicking about an issue of fundamental importance to the future of Britain and Europe.
The mistake was to attempt to draw blood because Cameron is a better debater and came back on the issue of stealing Tories clothing over inheritance tax. This may not have been intended as the sucker punch, and the Prime Minister reacted with a defence of his position, and did so impressively drawing attention that the Conservative proposals would have involved giving one billion to the wealthiest 3000, and that when state papers are released it would be revealed the Government had been considering the issue for some time before the Conservative announcement, but by responding he left his guard wide open. Look me in the eye, Cameron came back and tell me you did not change your mind about holding a general election because of the opinion polls? This was a blow which the Prime Minister had to accept because there was no clever rebuttal possible. It had to be the truth, nothing but the truth, and the truth if spoken on the occasion would have been political suicide. The contrast between the USA president's State of the Nation speech and that the position of the Prime Minister could not have been more great.

However I thought the performance of the PM was far better than anticipated, but he will need to take a long look at his closest advisers and trust his own instincts more and have lots of luck if he is to get back to the position held during those first few months of power.

The political prizes ahead are enormous with the 2012 Olympics, a Rugby World Cup and other sporting world events in that decade including the Football World Cup, which should create good feeling and offset the realities of government. The Prime Minister needs to avoid the knock about stuff and concentrate on being the elder statesman and a strong father figure for the nation. The rest of the cabinet need to be on their best behaviour, united and projecting their policies and personalities to create the sense of a united team capable of winning the biggest prizes. The outcome may be in the hands of the Liberal Party who have successfully got rid of the two men who held public attention beyond the confines of their party. They appear to have decided on putting up two junior versions of David Cameron. They are heading for Parliamentary obliteration once more and this will help focus the electorate on the choice between the basic values of the Labour and Conservative Parties. If the management of the economy remains firm, the Party will remain in power.

No comments:

Post a Comment