A liberal ontologist in Stoke

Had a few days in Paris, it was most odd. Much more polluted than I’d have thought, all those scooters, and everyone smokes. On the plus side everyone’s well dressed and pretty good looking for it, healthy looking – sans cigs, anyway.

A lot of it was closed due to the floods, about which shitty French TV reported to the exclusion of all else. Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Louvre. The river was well up, high, swollen, gurgling swells and eddies whirling right up close to you, and the water under some bridge arches high enough to ram any boat going under, while we saw of one tour-boat jetty only the very top of the walk-through frame.
Went to some great cafes and restaurants, walked all round the city as is our wont, the locals sometimes played to type with their baseless arrogance, but we had a great time overall.

One thing we got to see was at the Musee l’Armee, a temporary exhibition of Napoleon on St Helena. I’d no idea he’d offered after Waterloo to take a backseat in the French govt, to which they said ‘furck urff!!’, so in pique he stormed off to the British, who took him to the UK first to a mass outpouring of gawping onlookers at Plymouth, then shipped him and his entourage of lackeys to the south Atlantic. I thought he’d spent his last years kicking stones alone around St. H, dying slowly of arsenic poisoning. In fact he had a gang of generals and bureaucrats, all hanging on his every word writing his history as he bade them do, most of them in a race to get out their memoirs ‘My last days with Boney’, ‘Naps and me: The Helena Years’, all these expose, kiss-n-tell memoirs, many while he was alive, as he himself sought to ‘keep the spirit alive!!’ when not winding up the governor (who only referred to him as a general, and not as emperor, pissing off Bones bigtime and their meetings always ended in shouting). When he ultimately died they then went to town on deifying him, one painting having him come out of his tomb, head aglow, really as ‘the second coming’. Utter messianic figure, a proto rockstar … who sought to take over Europe … Tony Blair … this warmongering dictator … entombed in the land of revolution in a manner that Kim Il Sung would applaud.

The last day we went back to Gare du Nord to take the train to CGD – total, fucking, chaos. The trains weren’t going from their usual platform, but (we found upon asking someone) two platforms two floors up –
accessed by a narrow stairwell down which people with suitcases were battering people coming up on crutches. Already you think this isn’t right or safe. The platforms were rammed, the trains were also rammed, people hanging out the doors til they closed, real pushing and shoving and shouting onto trains with most of a foot gap to fall into, no staff on hand to control passengers or give information, no departure boards giving information. Having had to wait so long to get close to the train doors we work out it’s one train in one platform, the other goes, is replaced, back and forth – until the train we get on (the fourth to leave), when we’re packed aboard, the driver says we’re in fact not going to CGD but to Mitray. Luckily we’d given it an extra hour to get to CGD but even so amid the chaos your pulse rises and you think ‘shit, we’ll not make it, it’s going to be a bitch of a rip-off taxi …’. We lambast British trains but I’ve never seen anything so shit in the UK. And apparently it’s like this all the time.

Since then I went to Stoke to do a NK talk, and it was lovely, just found it in time, small room, excellent questions. Wood gas! What we had in the war. Afterwards the host Chris regaled with his dissection of liberal ontology, as he hopes to explore with his MPhil. His delivery was very droll, one of these guys whose perceptive abilities are just up another level and are so much fun to behold.

Just to contrast with the subject matter of NK, at the (faded but impressive) North Stafford hotel I watched High Class Call Girls on Channel 4.

The lives people lead. You hope they’re happy.

Mais dis donc

Demain, moi et la missus voyagon au France pour un weekend – IF Air France and all else haven’t gone on a massive sympathy strike with the air traffic controllers, as some of the latter are striking this weekend. Even if our CityJet-ShittyJet-Merde-Air plane does leave, will it have anywhere to land a la France, or will we have to jump out SOE style?

I flew Air France to Beijing last time I went that way out, then on the return leg to Paris, and it’s an enjoyable flight, they run a good ship, but on landing and hoping to disembark there’s a problem getting the passenger walkway tube thing connected to the plane, and I have a connection in 45 minutes … which is missable, considering how big airports are, extra security, etc.

The captain talks over the tannoy and first and foremost reassures us the delay is NOT the fault of Air France, because deflecting blame is our primary interest as we stand clogging the aisles, brewing sweat, wanting to catch other planes to elsewhere, while he gives no time for how long we’ll be held up.
So I ask the security stewardess how far my connecting gate is from here.
‘Eh,’ she says tartly, ‘I have over 200 people on this plane making a connection, you are not the only one.’
‘Right. I’m not claiming I’m special, I’m wondering how long it’ll take to get from here to my gate.’
‘Show me your boarding pass!’ which I’d already offered her to see.’It is close. You will make it, stop panicking.’
‘I’m just asking, there’s no problem, thank you for your help.’
‘Eh! There is no problem!’
There is, we can’t get off, and you’re in some kind of mood. I hope you are, otherwise you’re like this all the time, eh?

Having just had a bag of wonderfully British chips I feel a rant brewing about the French and their weedy French Fries what we’ll to eat in Paris, fries buried under frogs-legs washed down with £20 pints of Stella, and how much we spend subsidising their economy so they can go on strike and wreck our holidays and how Brexit is actually a good thing, and we should retake Calais like Henry V or someone then knock it down to stop the Jungle lot coming over, in fact let’s blow up the tunnel, or some such essentially racially-motivated impotent statement of intent to commit violence/terrorism ‘cos I’m on some kind of carbo-jag.

PS: Apparentlement, Paris est ‘flooded’. Luckilyment, nous allons la avec Lufthansa:

ju52_3m

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In other news, I gave Ben-dog a chip, which being blind he couldn’t see, so Ringo took it instead.
Ringo took food from an old, blind dog.
I admonished Ringo and he gave me this pitiful look, like ‘o the injustice’. He’s like Theon, does appalling things then feels sorry for himself.

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I’ve also found a wonderful track with which to herald my contender arrival into a boxing arena, ‘Trespassers will be eaten’ from Live And Let Die, recorded in 1973, perfect for my age and style, me coming in in my golden dressing gown, hood over my eyes, tassles flailing as I throw some hot shadow combinations, entourage of goons pushing back the screaming crowd, although they might not be heaving towards me, my squad are just pushing them back for effect, hence their screams.
Can’t upload the track, though.
Shit.

Piss-fingered buffet-car business meeting

Am in buffet, on the train to Cambridge to do a Skeptics talk in North Korea, and there’s a tall, fit-framed man in a rugby-type shirt, looks a bit like Mark Webber, walking up and down the aisle on his iPhone, saying things like ‘what was the plan to give the realtor shareholders a greater part of the equity?’. All very interesting and business-y, but the bog becomes free and in he goes, still on his phone!! No mate, no, you cannot conduct business in the bog! Whoever you’re talking to will at least pick up on the door sliding shut and that you’re suddenly in a quieter, more muffled environment, before they even dare strain their ear to hear the tinny tinkle of piss!
You might drop your phone down the loo!
You’ll at least cover it with pissy fingerprints!
How could so sophisticatedly-seeming a man so swiftly go off the cliff of ick?

Otherwise, I did the talk in the Maypole pub, and they were a truly lovely audience. 

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Today’s fleeting ambition is I want to be in a viral video, maybe being caught dressed as a prole at some railway station, playing an abandoned piano beautifully. Or maybe being part of a hilarious ‘spontaneous’ flash-mob song’/dance at a station, or an airport even, with jogged footage of close ups on ‘real’ members of the public all amused by yet another covert O2 advert, members of the public who must live in some kind of weird bubble to still be surprised by such things, although if I saw the like going on at an airport I’d be surprised that the police hadn’t opened fire.

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Are urban foxes and seagulls becoming more aggressive? They do seem ever more larey. But is it because they’re eating more junk food? Are they some kind of natural litmus that shows junk food is bad for you as in makes you mad and angry?
It makes sense that people who eat too much junk food are more aggressive, if they’re eating food that’s low in essential nutrients, contains additives of any kind that have undisclosed side effects, and by way of being replete on bad food they have no hunger for good food. Are we seeing this in foxes and seagulls, because they seem a lot more aggressive than they used to be, and is it related to diet?
How would we find this out? Has junk food and the chucking away of it in the streets really exploded in recent years? Have foxes and gulls become rapidly urbanised?
It’s somewhat obvious with younger minds they’re jacked on sugar and caffeine, how many children fuel themselves for school with a can of Red Bulls and a smoke? But foxes and seagulls aren’t on smokes and cokes.
There’s a scene from Dan Dare, The Man From Nowhere, where he realises that the food fed to the passive people of Cryptos is very different to that fed to the highly aggressive Phants, who are perennially coming to attack Cryptos and enslave its people.
Old Dare, really was a pilot of the future.

Dare

PS: Just had a McDonalds. Don’t feel replete so much as soiled, jittery, and still hungry.

 

DJing and dancing

Just done my second Radio Prudhoe gig, once you know what you’re doing on the decks and haven’t the distraction of anyone else about, it’s really quite a laugh. I thought so, don’t know about the listeners. Surely everyone likes the Prodigy, the soundtrack to Goldfinger and songs from the Korean People’s Army? Did a few more shout-outs to people who asked me for them on Facebook but couldn’t actually hear the program, one was on a stuffed train to Paddington and said 1st Class was stuffed with dancing girls and G&T – like an orgy a la Romans in Asterix.

All jolly fun. Only problem was nearly having to ram-raid the Golf through the building doors to get in.

I might have mentioned North Korea a few times, having been back from there for some weeks, it was only a seven-day tour, but it was probably the most enlightening, and am grinding through this series on tourism in North Korea for NK News.

Since returning I’ve also done a series of Skeptics in the Pub talks, Barnsley, Leicester, Bedford and Aberdeen done, with Cambridge and Stoke to come in the next few days. All great, fun, but still the subject can garner odd reactions. In a nightclub in Bedford, some last-chance saloon that’s the only place left open at 1am on a Thursday night, so everyone is there, from the town’s bright young things to the pensioners getting hammered, I met this young-ish bloke with a hipster beard. I tell him what I’m doing in Bedford, and he can’t believe I’ve been to NK, just won’t believe it. He tells me he’s something in special forces (like they tell people), mumbles what regiment he supposedly was in beforehand, then says he knows guys who’ve deployed on secret ops into North Korea, and that’s how you get in, so, he emphasised with aplomb, everything I was saying was bullshit. End of chat.

It is indeed remarkable how spontaneously people can bullshit, and with such vigour. Couldn’t really divulge this on tea-time radio though, nor the following.

Aberdeen was very nice, it was interesting not least to see where my grandfather was born and brought up, a century ago now. A century – …. I’m old enough now, I’ve added enough years to my life to now reach back to my grandfather’s birth 114 years ago.

I digress. Granite City is handsome, but surprisingly small, there’s one main drag through the place, Union Street I think, along and off which are a few bars and clubs. To knock the evening on the head, having had a very nice time up to closing time talking with Skeptics in the Holburn pub where I’d been talking, I wandered along Union Street and down a steep hill of a lane towards the station, with my B&B somewhere near, and on this hill, taken out by a gang of seagulls suffice in number to scare every punter coming out the kebab shop, I went towards a bar called Bugsy’s something, which looked quite big and quite nicely down out from the very little I could see through the Venetian blinds. Had that horrible trepidation of the bouncer going to turn me away, as he did the guy in front of me, but he let me in, £3 on the door, and down the stairs I go to the bar …

Hang on, #dafuq, all the women … are in lingerie, and over on the dance floor, there’s … lap dancing. Ermergerd.

Well I’m here now, might as well have one and go – shit, wait, is it like some Soho scam, f*** all to get in, then it’s £80 a pint?

‘How much for a pint of Tennents?’ (being in Scotland this is all there is).

‘£3.50, pal.’

Cool! I have one and then take a table along the back wall, to best observe and be unseen (yeah, right). There is always at least one lap dance going on on the dancefloor, sometimes up to three men being entertained at a time, young men mostly but a few burly middle-aged types (riggers I guess), with the women being very pert, mostly petite, in their 20s I think. Though I know very little about lapdancing, this was really quite unexpectedly full on, yes to grinding, a bit of stripping with extremely close-up views.

Twice I am propositioned by women who come to my table, speaking with eastern European accents, asking if I want a drink, to chat, and then a little dance? Thank you but no, and they bid me a nice evening and go congregate at the bar. At one point a lad in a group is hauled by two dancers onto the raised platform mid-stage where there’s a pole, to which he’s led by a leather collar being held by one of the dancers. He’s rapidly attached to the pole by his hands and to much protest from him and hilarity from others, his jeans are pulled down and he’s whipped by the other dancer, which goes on for a couple of minutes, before he’s brought onto all fours and dragged around like a dog, with the whipping continuing. I think by then he was really quite enjoying it. A regular punter then came to the table next to mine, I know he was regular as one of the dancers came running over to him, ‘why you didn’t say you were coming?’.

He was about 70 I guess, she no more than 22 or 23.

When you wonder where it’s all going, you fall into somewhere like that, and wonder all the more.

The Dog of War

Ben-dog’s farts have taken out almost the entire ground floor. It’s like Verdun down there.

I have a theory about this. Last week the poor sod had to have his other eye removed … since then his farts have become positively evil. I think he’s upped his guffing powers to compensate for his absolute lack of vision, he deals with any potential predators by pre-emptively gassing the room and everything in it. This would be to anyone else a war crime and a heavy burden upon their conscience, and particularly so it would be for so moral a hound as Ben-dog, but wonderfully, as he can’t see his victims, he’s no idea who or what lies dead due to his indiscriminate carpet-farting / industrial-flatulence. Guilt-free peace.

 

Billy the Puppet runs 13 miles

In just over a week, I shall be running in the Pyongyang marathon. As said before, I’m doing the half marathon in case I totally bust my knees up and spend the rest of the week tour leading exclusively from the front seat of the bus – “there’s a fascinating model farm over there, go and have a look, see you in 40 minutes.” That’d be a bit shit.

I’m running it for Arthritis Research UK, and have a spiffing bright orange vest for that purpose. Unfortunately it’s not been approved by the NK Ministry of Sport, who have a thing about commercial logos (although it’s a charity, and there are Nike ticks aplenty – but stone me for expecting consistency), so I’ll have a state-approved company T-shirt instead, as also befits me being on the job.

What I also do have though is a small ARUK pin, a bracelet, AND best of all, transfers! 12957388_10154070893929402_460886602_n

Makes me look like Billy the Puppet. And two more to wear on my shoulders, if I remove the T bits of the T-shirt, which might look rather punk.

I wonder if any of the punters are going to go as Jimmy Savile. It wouldn’t be that controversial seeing as the locals don’t know who he is.

 

Whenever I go to a meeting …

… there’s someone with an agenda.

So suspicious.

Another thing: Just heard on The Archers expressions like ‘stays true to himself’, ‘step up to the plate’, ‘have to make tracks’. Since when did The Archers get so street? That’s not how country folk talk, anyway, they say ‘oowar’, ‘coidah’, ‘can’t get a better bit of butter on your knoife’.

This town and country divide, yet so pernicious, yet so obvious, yet only ever widens, if not deepens, too.