Saturday, 21 January 2012

Help! My garden thinks it’s spring

The camellias are out, and some other flowers too whose name is beyond me (I know camellias and I know roses and daisies, that’s it. If you are in search of beautifully evocative descriptions of nature you are reading , once again, the wrong blog).
A mysterious bird (once more, see above) has been calling out all morning from some secret hideout deep in the barren branches. Flocks of green parakeets squawk back and forth, like they are doing rehearsals on the set of Rio.  (I don’t suppose cartoon characters actually do rehearse but you get the gist). The squirrels have been training hard for the birdfeeder-raiding Olympics.
The sun goes in and out, like a caring but distracted manager with too many meetings to attend. The air is mild, smells sweet, and resonates with the plaintive cries of toddlers.
Obviously it isn’t spring, not remotely, yet spring is not far off. Others (husband among them) hate it but I’m very fond of this time of year, with its grey-white skies, imperceptibly lighter mornings, a certain suspended hush in the air.
I like it because we still have them all in front of us, those theoretically pleasant six months of spring and summer. It is all still to come and therefore it hasn’t disappointed yet, it is all still potentially wonderful:  bright sunny days, branches heavy with candyfloss blossoms, blue skies. But also, a sudden surge of energy and optimism, the taking up of some long dreamed about sporting activity, a new wardrobe of light, feminine, flirty clothes, hems hovering above knees on newly slimmed down frames, un-quarrelsome visits to or from the parents.
None of that will actually happen. But it’s all just about still possible now.
Gotta go. Husband is back from the drycleaners with lots of little bunches of flowers (yes, I know, I’m blessed).  I’ll arrange them in various vases around the room as he scrambles eggs for our lunch. Then it will start to rain.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

That sinking feeling

By the time your father-in law (who is your blog’s first reader and greatest fan!!!) emails you suggesting you explore the succulent metaphors about your country’s predicament still bobbing up and down in the vicinity Isola del Giglio, you know the horse has well and truly bolted.
(Apologies for the mixed metaphors there but I thought “that ship has sailed” would be too brutal in the circs.)

So to recap, while the real life ship was going down, all through the horror of the botched midnight evacuation, the queasy, German expressionist daylight images of this huge broken toy thrown against the rocks next to the tiny harbour, all through the feverish media speculations and the viral U-tube clips of the – by now surely - most public dressing down in history, (translated here but without the expletives unfortunately) I was away from the office to my alternative place of employment, for my monthly dose of what feels like playing table tennis with a drunken but hyperactive octopus.

Therefore this story of Italian cowardice and ineptitude, followed by the tiny resurgence of some national pride thanks to Capitano Gregorio De Falco, (a man so damn upright and just plain wonderful that even as he was tearing strips out of Schettino, the farcical fugitive ship captain, urging him to “get the fuck back on the ship, for fuck’s sake”, never strayed from the polite/formal “lei” third person form of address) sort of passed me by.
I was aware of it, but dimly, lost in the background noise to my round of meetings, followed by cascades of contradictory emails, resulting in a cacophony of several more conversations conducted in second and third languages, and hastily scribbled to-do list for when life in the regular office begins again.
Catching up with the sorrowful tales of the survivors on a two days old newspaper on the train back home I was struck, as usual in these cases, by the casual spitefulness and vengeance of the god I do not believe in, so vicious to his own flock. The devout, retired couple from some US backwater who raised a large family and never had a penny and were now soooo looking forward to trip to Europe: dead. The nice woman who let the wheelchair-bound passengers get ahead and into the lifeboats: dead.
And another thing: It’s so hard to do good and so easy for things to go to shit, have you noticed? It’s as if some sort of moral gravity force was a play: after weeks of pushing tiny incremental changes laboriously uphill,  an economic reform here, a sober press conference there, the new, grey haired, dark-suited Italian PM had nearly managed to make people forget for five whole minutes what a country of chancers and scoundrels we are.  But it takes a tanned imbecile a moment’s stupidity and a long night of cowardice and arrogance for this to all come crushing down.
Maybe I’m feeling particularly despondent because a person I really respect quit her job this week in exasperation and disgust: years of pushing tiny boulders uphill, with few results, against increasing odds, eventually got the better of her. All that effort, what for? You may well ask. She did and stopped pushing and the boulders are crashing back down even as I write.
It helps, I suppose, to have a sense of humour and not to be too afraid to laugh through the tears.
My compatriots are now buying t-shirts emblazoned with a myriad of variations of the De Falco’s outburst: “Pay your taxes, for fuck’s sake!”, “Get in the queue, for fuck’s sake!”).
Mild mannered intellectual husband, who I have missed more than words can say, has just cooked a celebratory dinner. We are celebrating the fact that I’m back home, not from a death cruise but from an ordinary working week which had its share of banal evils for both of us, that we are together, alive and make each other laugh.
Tomorrow boulder-pushing resumes as normal. Tomorrow we have to – as Capitano Gregorio De Falco would no doubt put it- “get the fuck back out there” and do our best, probably pointlessly, against ridiculous odds.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

For the love of J and other theatre tales

Today’s Guardian told us that people are now queuing up all night long outside the Apollo theatre in London to get their hands on tickets for the multi-award winning play Jerusalem whose run is about to end.

I saw the play for the first time two years ago and was so transfixed, both by the themes explored and by Mark Rylance’s mesmeric performance, that I got tickets (presciently early enough) as soon as this latest run was announced. In between, the play went on to win every award going in both the West End and Broadway. My second viewing of the play didn’t disappoint, in fact sharpened my pleasure and awe at the writing, the performances, the set design.
The Guardian piece thus cheered me up for three distinct reasons.
I’m a great fan of queuing, as you know, and this almost loving description of the agony and the ecstasy, the quirkiness, the sense of satisfaction and camaraderie, the sheer anarchic power of a good, long, honest overnight queue is joyous for me to behold. Well done England!!!
Which brings me to my second point. The miracle of this play for me is its rendition in front of your eyes of what England and Englishness is about, in flesh and blood.
Having spent my first three years in the UK in Scotland, which has a strong, definite, in yer face identity, then decamped to London, a metropolis, unique in its own right, I’ve always had a problem perceiving what Englishness was all about. I have travelled around England, I’m familiar with the sites, I can just about tell the accents apart, I know the stereotypes...I just could never feel the place.  
I seemed to be suffering from a particular form of mental colour- blindness which meant that when I moved to England I could just about make out that it was Anglophone and not Scottish but,  to misquote Gertrude Stein, there was no there there...
All my references were historical and literary, and pretty much, well, dead, (William Shakespeare, George Orwell, Winston Churchill, stiff upper lip, the Queen Mother relieved after the bombing of Buckingham Palace  to be finally able  “to look the East End in the eye”, Ted Hughes’ magic in nature stuff , Chesterton’s  “people of England who haven’t spoken yet”), apart from a few nasty modern ones, like the violence of football casuals and the racism of the English Defence League.
Jerusalem made me see the connections between a lot of dots I had not joined and brought tears to my eyes in the process (good theatre does that to me but more on this later). The weird druid-like mysticism (achieved by most of the characters by assiduous drug-taking, true, still this is not German, Italian or even Scottish drug-taking, not a bit of it),  the love of nature coupled with a complete acceptance of small time urban squalor, the fascination with and revulsion against The Outsider, a timeless quest for freedom seen as the ability to live life in one's own terms, a certain  heroic “my-word-is-my-bond”- type proud stance coupled with the dullest of reflexive, unthinking prejudice and a philistine compliance with the lowest common denominator take on anything  - all is here.
The dumbing down of the BBC, Top Gear, an eccentric erudite professor, Morris dancing as (double genius) a brewery marketing ploy,  all get a mention or play a part in the play. Not to mention, well, the song.
Does this light-bulb moment suddenly make me love and appreciate England, or even, dear god, feel English in any way? It’s more complex than that.
I despise a number of those traits (say the anti-intellectualism), many more are completely alien to my psychological make-up (the nature worship bordering on the mysticism, the Morris dancing) but the crucial fact is that I know this place, I recognise it and that makes me love it a little bit too.
Maybe like a biologist, who’s been observing but not quite seeing a virulent strain of something or other under a microscope for years- a certain attachment develops, you know?  Or like a sibling you have been indifferent or even hostile to for years but whose instincts, expressions and reactions you are suddenly able to evoke, anticipate, double-guess. To know is to love, for me, to a certain extent.
Now to my third point – the Guardian piece highlights one of the great pleasures of life on earth and specifically of living in London today and one of the few surviving un-digital experiences of our age: first class theatre. Each performance is unique and by and large time limited, transient, un-recorded and thus un-U Tube-able. You have to physically be there to be part of the experience, to witness it and – pace Gertrude – there is definitely a there there which shifts and changes and evolves each time.
In case you are interested, below are some of the top theatre experiences of my life so far, in whatever order I hall happen to remember them. I’d like to hear what yours are or if we miraculously did experience some of the same magic in the dark and did not know it....
Mark Rylance – twice in the last two years – in Jez Buttherworth’s Jerusalem (The National and the Apollo production)
Rufus Sewell in Royal Court’s production of the Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n Roll about six years ago – I sobbed for so long after the curtains came down that my mild mannered intellectual (then) boyfriend was alarmed and rather touched.
Cate Blanchet in the National Theatre production  David Hare’s Plenty thirteen years ago. I laughed and cried so hard I thought I was going to be ushered out.
Every production of Stoppard’s Arcadia I have ever seen (but it’s worth remarking that my love affair with the theatre begun in and was fostered by my sojourn in Edinburgh, and I was there, probably during the Festival that I saw this play for the first time). It just makes your brain hurt and your heart melt.
Every line of David  Hare’s Stuff Happens at the National about eight years ago – plus I did a lovely bit of queuing early that morning to secure the only tickets till going, a small allocation kept back each day under the Travelex £10 scheme which got me the best seats in the house virtually for free. This scheme is one of the most civilised things I can think of in the world. The queue was largely made up of intellectual but penniless pensioners who told me they “were out seeing a play every night”.
A very young, very charismatic Kenneth Branagh in a wonderful Look Back in Anger production with Emma Thompson as Alison.  Beyond bliss. Put me off ironing for ever though. Actually, that was a further bonus. Result!
A still unknown Carey Mulligan weeping silently, effortlessly and hypnotically like only Carey Mulligan can do in the Royal Court’s production of Chekhov’s the Seagull with lots of big shots (Kristin Scott-Thomas, Chiwetel Eijofor, Mackenzie Crooks) who left no lasting impression on me.
The impact of the sheer weirdness of Caryl Churchill’s  Far Away in the Royal Court production a decade ago. I didn’t exactly enjoy it at the time but I have thought about it lots in the intervening years and it now seems to me just genius.
An amateur/student,/who knows play entitled To the Ladies who drive Mercedes,  watched for reviewing purposes in a disused church in Edinburgh during the Fringe twenty years ago. I have no idea who wrote it and what became of the cast and playwright. It was the story of a white middle class female journalist who ends up imprisoned in some horrid black site type prison in a Latin American country. “Where am I?” she asks her fellow prisoner at the very start of the play. “This place doesn’t exist” is the answer.  

To this day no couple of months go by that I don’t think of this play, about which I remember very little, for some reason I can’t explain. I guess it just had a huge impact on my impressionable young mind.  It got me reading Isabel Allende, then Garcia Marquez and reinforced my hatred of US-sanctioned, market-driven right-wing dictatorships.
I could go on but clearly I shall have to stop sometimes so, finally, but by now means conclusively, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot -  in too many productions to remember, in  too many theatres, in different cities (remember Dublin twenty-god help us-odd years ago Oren?).
So, there.
What do we do now, now that we are happy?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Pastels? Pastels??? Plus some thoughts on the Thatcher film

A mixed bag of a post this (or should I say handbag) but there it is: the time is short, the churn of impressions and ideas quite incessant, the discipline to take careful notes and write thoughtfully later instead of watching some trash on TV, frankly, non-existent.

So, back to the first matter at hand - faithful readers of this two months old blog, all 13 of them, will know I'm one for the occasional bout of verbal joshing against the vagaries of fashion. Which might seem odd to some because, just like in the matter of having children, there is no actual gun to any woman's head forcing her to take a blind bit of notice on what Vogue says "we are loving" this week.  
On the other hand the magic market fairy which should provide us with all this choice, freedom and opportunity to express ourselves, live life to the max etc works in such a clunky, self-serving, unidirectional, almost Soviet way that you can be sure if Vogue was featuring the ghastly pastel haute couture gracing the catwalks some 6 months ago for Spring 2012 this edict will by now have trickled down, via steadily more downmarket mags, newspaper supplements and so on, to the steadily more downmarket but still strictly on-message designers and retailers.
So that you eventually reach a point when you cannot walk into M&S, John Lewis or whatever store you consider to be suitable shorthand for "the death of style" and avoid buying something pastel-coloured if you wish to wear any clothes this spring.
Why? I mean, why?
At a more general level, why is it that the richer and more sophisticated our societies and economies become the less actual choice about anything do consumers actually seem to have, just acres more versions  of the same kind of thing (in other words no genuine choice at all)?
Last winter my sister wrote amusingly in her Italian blog (what a multilingual family we are)  about Her Struggle to find a pair of dark brown, low heeled boots. No such boots in such a shade were on offer in any of Genoa's shoe-shops on accounts of the fact that boots were meant to be black with a medium heel last winter, end of. A city of 700.000 people could not accommodate the (hardly extravagant it seems to me) preference for the colour brown.
Secondly and more pointedly: why, dear god, oh why, does it have to be pastels this spring? I accept a person might look good in a particular shade of light green, say. Say it goes with her hair colour. But who, over the age of 7, looks good in baby pink or in "pastels" in general? The whole pastels aesthetic is wrong in the grown up woman. Nothing else goes with pastels, no other colour for starters but also shall I put this... job title or pay-cheque worth having.
Now about the Thatcher film :
She is portrayed as having made it to the top propelled by nothing more than extreme parsimony and a gigantic chip on her shoulder (if you could bottle that you'd be looking at green fuel indeed) as well as psychotic (i.e. male) levels of ambitions, of course.

Carol's portrayal, as well-meaning, visually brash but pathetic non-entity, the un-favourite twin, was very sympathetic I thought, and oddly moving.
The only other women featured in the film were tea ladies, seamstresses and Downing St cleaners, a silent, purely visual reminder of how she was so unique that she changed precisely nothing as far as gender was concerned.

In the bonkers phase of her leadership she is seen berating her cabinet for not having the courage to go the whole nine yards with the (clearly regressive) poll tax. It's because they were all privileged toffs, ashamed of the privileges they enjoyed, she argued, while someone from her background didn't feel she had to be apologetic about her success and compassionate about others' failures. She also berated them for being too concerned about popularity, opinion polls and essentially re-election to do the “right thing”.
Now look around today's millionaires' cabinet and tell me whether you can spot either:
A)     a grocer's daughter or
B)      any sense of shame/embarrassment about all that privilege and corresponding compassion for the less well off.
On the other hand the current PM is certainly a master of the U turn and British politics as a whole has been run on focus groups since the early New Labour days. Progress or what???

That said, there was precious little actual politics in the film - in the end it was less about ideas and ideological conflict  and more about one’s failings as a human being through the time honoured method of being cruel/selfish towards those who love you/closest to you.
The scenes with Dead Denis,  so cheerful, so comforting (until he switches to tormentor as she comes to fear the allucinations as a symptom of incipient madness) brought tears to my eyes and made me long for my husband. He's very much alive, and had simply stayed home sulking as he “did not want to see the Thatcher film”. He spent the evening slaying orcs instead.
I tried, but I really cannot think of a funny or clever way to bring this back to pastels. It’s two in the morning, I’m going to bed. I need the full four hours as I intend to take back the Faulklands purchase a pale yellow sweater tomorrow.

Friday, 6 January 2012

You're not the Pope of me!

Over the years I've read with trepidation in a number of women's magazines, (those caring, nurturing begetters of useful information and self-affirmation that play such an important role in making sure the female gender remains the most politically powerful and economically successful), that once a woman reaches middle age she becomes invisible. Incredibly, (because they are normally so accurate and objective, don't you find?), this is in fact not true at all.

Having recently-ish crossed to the other side of 40 I can state that - if anything - there tends to be, well, much more of you to meet the eye -let's say a third more than your highly visible but whippet thin 16 year old you.

Secondly, just as you achieve the bank balance to buy decent clothes they stop producing decent clothes for the likes of you but - cheer up! - because in turn everybody but everybody develops an opinion about what you should wear.

Shopping with my sister these days is like shopping with Jiminy Cricket - a slender, pocket-sized conscience who, when summoned, pops her head through the curtains of the changing room, appraises you with a calm, even stare and only ever says one syllable: No. You know she is right - nothing fits you and you can save yourself a lot of money and burn some serious cals by trying on a lot of stuff and then just buy the occasional handbag.

Mild mannered intellectual husband would have me in a burka but for quite opposite reasons. Unaccountably, he thinks I'm so damn attractive that showing any part of me, wearing any colour or pattern, not to mention make-up, would send other men into a lustful frenzy. That's not how he puts it, of course, being English and reserved and rather shy. His standard phrase is something along the lines of :"Gowd! That eye-shadow/blouse/boots makes you look like a Neapolitan stripper!"

On my visits home my mother starts excavating through the geological layers of her wardrobe and comes up with - in no particular order - elasticised black trousers, ankle length brown velour skirts, the odd faux-Pucci miniskirt dress from her youth, moth eaten furs, safari jackets, pink towelling turbans (they were fashionable for about 6 minutes in the late 60s apparently), lays them down on her bed and offers them to me indiscriminately. She has either "just bought it for me at the Piazza Palermo market" (that would be the elasticised stuff) or "kept it for me" from her well dressed signorina days. She is adamant I should wear floral patterns and shorter hair. She actually likes me in lipstick and is indignant that my husband "won't let me" (although that also subtly reassures her about him being "a real man").

Weirdly it is me who cares less these days. I don't need other people's approving gazes to feel that I exist, that I take up space in the word (too much space, you could argue, but then I don't care what you think, remember?), that I am of (some) consequence.

My body will never be "bikini-ready" ever again - so I can save myself at least two months and several thousand pounds of extra detoxing/liquid diets/algae wraps/anti-cellulite creams every year. Last year's swimming costume will do.

I could not care less what platformed/fake-furred/transparent/paisley-infested monstrosities are gracing the catwalks this year, soon to trickle into pret-a-porter must-haves in every woman's magazine (Biggest Ever Issue! Bumper Style Section! All The Latest Trends!!!).

No-one can possibly walk in what passes for high heeled shoes today. They are a modern day form of feet-binding pure and simple and uglier than callipers. I mean, really? No one can possibly look anything else but stupid in "harem pants" and, guess what, if my aspirations hadn't stretched beyond the harem I'd never have left Italy, saving myself a lot of hassle

Incidentally, is this what being a man feels like? Quiet self-acceptance, dignified anonymity, comfortable footwear? No wonder they have more time and stamina to get that promotion/launch that new business venture/fight that election. Not caring about what men think of me, what other women I might once have competed with for male attention think of me or whether I am sufficiently visible and attractive to men, I have become, weirdly, more like a man myself. (I like it!!! Now, who do you have to screw around here to get rid of periods too???)

If anything I think it is younger women who are becoming/made to feel increasingly invisible. Like their male counterparts they struggle to find meaningful employment - so far so equally crummy. But once they have paid their dues in a succession of low-paid jobs or unpaid internships, just as they are about to reap the rewards they start getting overlooked for better positions in case they decide to have children. Then the whole of society starts yelling at them about their 'biological clocks' till they start hearing the - often imaginary -clocks themselves and the desperate rush begins to find a suitable, not too ape-like man-child with whom to stumble into motherhood .

Needless to say the men in question are never ready, never sure, keeping their options open and so on. Hence the fake tan, fake (now exploding!) tits, and the scrubbing, the shaving, the starving. They are literally erasing their selves to become acceptable, impregnate-able, to be seen.

It isn't getting better, it's getting worse.

While once young girls might have been patronised with the reassurances that "one day" women would be doctors and airplane pilots and , who knows, even astronauts, if they tried very very hard and played by the rules, nowadays being playthings, pretty dolls who take 'ironic' pole-dancing classes, then becoming unpaid milk maids and cleaners is all young girls are being told they should aspire to. No, not by their parents or teacheers necessarily, but by just about every form of marketing, media, advertising - by the - for lack of a better word- The Culture.

Sure, in the dream scenario all this comes with money into the bargain, international travel, iPads, breathy blogs about being domestic goddesses for the posh ones, stardom on reality TV for the trashy ones. It's not like they are being oppressed. Not like they are in chains in a cave (well, not very often - and mainly in Austria).

Still. We have a Republican candidate for the US presidency who thinks that not just abortion, but contraception should be made illegal. If he wins and this vision comes to pass New York City girls might have to stock up for condoms in Vatican City, where contraception still puts you in hell after death but not yet in jail in this life. If this is the level of debate in the free world- with women's bodies used as those plastic scale battlefields models- surely the institutionalised, normalised cave, Afghanistan with air-con, cannot be that far behind.

The truth is that the kind of 'visibility' middle-aged women are supposed to lose- the visibility of being pleasing to another's eye, the visibility of the harem - has no real power attached to it. It's all a sad, shabby illusion. The power remains firmly with those who do not have to totter on ridiculous heels to business meetings and who do not spend their money having potentially carcinogenic implants sewn into their bodies. Those who do not lactate, don't wipe snot all day long and still have full control of their bladders.

And if you think this is harsh you'd better give me a very wide berth when I'm premenstrual. Assuming you can actually see me, of course.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The impossibility of queuing in the mind of the Italians

Remember that pretentious piece of Young British Artists’ crappery, the pickled-shark-in-a-tank entitled “The Impossibility of death in the mind of the living”, back when Lord Saatchi didn’t think it too vulgar to buy dead animals and stained bed sheets ? Well, I don’t know about death but it turns out Damian Hirst’s creation perfectly captures the Italian state of mind when faced with the concept of queuing.

I had this realisation last week, travelling home to spend New Year with The Family. We have Christmas with His Family, during which enough mini sausages wrapped in bacon are consumed that if you lined them up ....well, you’d be ashamed of yourself. After the Holy Porkathon, a spell with The Family is part detoxing spa (meals at my sister’s), part Seventies pre-cooked Neapolitan feasts (meals at my mother’s). But I digress.
Waiting to catch our plane at Stanstead I observed the behaviour of the mostly Italian crowd: it was  comical in its attempt to not form an orderly line. I’m not talking about queue-jumping here, average rudeness, sharp elbows. No, these were peaceful and courteous enough family groups spreading themselves as widely as possible or condensing in impenetrable little clusters in the narrow corridors, blocking the passage to other gates and the pilots' and staff’s own progress towards our plane, seemingly out of a freakish distaste for the appearance of queuing, while in fact, to all extent and purposes, actually queuing.
 It was a fascinating spectacle. It’s as if even once they had accepted they had to wait and by and large their place was behind other people, who had annoyingly, you know, arrived earlier, they couldn’t quite give up the hope that somehow, someone would lift them from the scrum and deposit them at the front of the queue or indeed directly into Genoa’s passport control lounge, as long as no one was looking or paying too much attention to where one ought to stand. A sort of spatial magical thinking, if you like.
 Another, more irritating type of Italian walked straight past us in the doubling up queue as if everybody else was a little dense and they were the only ones to have worked out a secret way in, a safe passage halfway through. They were all, invariably sent back as said safe passage failed to materialise and had to squeeze their way past the above mentioned families, again. The vast airport was at times nearly brought to a standstill by these slowly moving gluts of Italians unfamiliar and/or unresigned to the concept of standing in a straight line.
This would just be one of those things and wouldn’t matter so much if I didn’t have the sneaking suspicion that it’s the self same mentality which afflicts otherwise quite reasonable people and infects them with the illogical delusion that it is possible for most of them, the clever ones, not to pay tax and yet still expect functioning schools and hospitals (it’s those dense other Italians who insist on paying you see...). That it’s better to elect time and again a buffoon who tells us all is wonderful and entertains us with his frat-house behaviour at foreign summits rather than face the uncomfortable fact that we have priced our children out their own lives. So that even now the talk is that after a year of Mario Monti’s bitter (and many fear regressive and growth-choking) austerity Berlusconi may actually win another turn by promising another magical million new jobs and several more magical tax cuts – the same he has promised before and, you guessed it,  never delivered.
Would it be so terrible to... face the shark, so to speak, to feel the fear and queue anyway? Renaissance paintings and marble cathedrals are all very well but,  bar for a spot of stylish Vespa-riding in the heady 60s of the economic boom, we have actually achieved fuck all that’s worthy of note in the past 500 years,  busy as we were pretending to be smarter, richer, further up in the line than other people. 
We are funny but not that funny. The food you can get anywhere these days. We soon won’t be able to afford the clothes. Global warming is giving even England a lovely Mediterranean climate. We are not that special any more, just extremely screwed. Might as well absorb some basic rules of civilised behaviour – say queuing - and purge ourselves of the philosophical fallacy that rules must only be obeyed in the presence of an authority figure  ‘making you’. (Yes, taxi-driving morons of my home town, I am talking to you :  the passenger behind you can in fact kill you in a crash if they are not using the rear seat belt even if no policemen are present or bothered about tenforcing that particular law. It’s called momentum and it’s a physical force you cannot bargain with, unlike the vigili urbani).
Might as well elect people who can conjugate verbs and have no previous convictions, and elect them on the basis of what needs to be done and what we think they can actually deliver (not what sounds lovely and they say convincingly and often enough). And maybe we should hold them accountable for the decisions they take and check on the delivery of the promises they make. That of course would imply a professional and competent press which wasn’t organised and run like a medieval guild crossed with a mafia family. And while we are at it we should perhaps look into utilising the 52pc of the population which currently does so well at school only to disappear in the kitchen, like the 70’s was something that happened to other women.  
We have delayed the plane long enough- soon it will leave whether we are on board or not - what more have we got to lose? Let's get in line people!