I’ve never been any good at practical matters. If you’ve got a quadratic equation you need to solve then I’m your man. If you’ve got a bed that needs dis-assembling, I’ll give you the phone number of one of my more DIY-proficient friends. I know one with a great sense of humour who would be happy to help. At school, I was hopeless at woodwork and not much better at Science subjects, which I dropped as quickly as I could. Of course, “options” at a boys Grammar School in the Sixties meant dropping one subject at the end of the Third Year (Year 9) and another subject at the end of the following year. My decision was easy. I dropped Biology first and then Chemistry. This decision was based on two factors: my inability to remember a single fact from either subject and Mr. Causton. He was a young teacher who taught me Science in the Third Year. The autocorrect feature of my phone tried to change his name to Mr. Caustic, and that’s about right. He thought he was funny but he was just sarcastic. In May 1968, I wrote out all the names of the visiting Australian cricket team, in alphabetical order, on the cover of my rough book. (I was capable of remembering random facts, if they were important). He asked me what these names were because he obviously had no interest in cricket and told me that I must have bought an ink roller with all their names on it. As I said, he thought he was funny. This may have been after his lack of attention to detail nearly saw me lose two fingers. I was heating a substance in a test tube, over a Bunsen burner when a gust of wind from an open window blew the flame onto my fingers. I didn’t scream but put the test tube down on the bench and walked to the front of the laboratory and waited while Mr. Causton talked to another boy. When I showed him my fingers, he leapt into action and next thing I knew I was bandaged up with two enormous finger sheaths. (When I went to Tonbridge Station with Andy a few days later, his scary friends saw me and laughed. They joked about what I must have been doing to have the first two fingers of my right hand bandaged. I had no idea what they meant). A friend of mine in the class told me that when Mr. Causton came back into the laboratory after seeing to my injury and sending me home, he closed the windows. When my parents went to the parents’ evening a few weeks later, he denied that the windows had been open. My Mum was furious.
Biology and Chemistry. I have no idea how anyone becomes proficient at these disciplines. I have nothing but admiration for scientists who understand how our bodies work and how medicines can cure illness. The vaccination programme is so successful because the scientists have brilliant minds. In the pandemic, it has been reassuring that the politicians have promised to “follow the science”. Let me re-phrase that. It was reassuring when the politicians promised to “follow the science”.
Recently, however, some politicians have decided that they know better than brilliant scientists. Joy Morrisey MP, tweeted that “Perhaps the COVID unelected public health spokesperson should defer to what our elected members of parliament and the prime minister have decided. I know it’s difficult to remember but this is not how democracy works. This is not a public health socialist state”. Joy Morrisey received a Masters degree specialising in European Social Policy from the LSE before a brief acting career in which she appeared in what The Guardian described as a “bonkfest”, called “Geek Mythology”. The target of her criticism was Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England. His scientific qualifications are too numerous to list. Suffice to say, he knows more about COVID than Joy Morrisey. Or me. Anyway, I think it would be quite good to live in a public health socialist state.
The consequence of the popularity of Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Michael Gove is that the latter’s statement that “the people of this country have had enough of experts” has become received wisdom. I remember when I was teaching at BHASVIC, my highly intelligent manager would ask me for evidence, every time I made a sweeping generalisation. “Students find Mechanics difficult” would be followed by “What evidence do you have for saying that”. Obviously, I found that annoying, but he was right. (I don’t have any evidence for saying he was right but….. ) An expert opinion, based on evidence, is of greater value than an idiot’s blind self-serving prejudice.
As it happens, I suspect that Boris Johnson’s beliefs are rooted towards the middle ground of British politics. However, most of his decisions are not founded on his beliefs but are driven by his narcissism and personal history of believing that rules are made for other people. His desperate need to be loved means that the decisions he is making at the moment are geared towards his survival as Prime Minister, rather than for the benefit of the people that he governs. The loony right wing of the Tory Party (who voted against minor public health restrictions such as wearing a mask in shops and on public transport) have him in their grip. His refusal to protect the country from illness and death caused by the omicron variant is based on a fear that he will be exposed as a moral coward. His beliefs are the last thing that he consults these days; it’s all about survival. Unfortunately that’s his survival, not ours.
How often do decisions that politicians make directly affect our lives? Possibly less than we might think if we are financially secure. Sadly, the weakest members of society are reliant on a humane, compassionate government to look after them and protect them. I have been lucky enough to have had secure work during my life and have had no need for financial support from governments. However, in the last couple of years, I have required medical support for a) my hip and b) protection from COVID. Again, I have been lucky with my hip as my operation has been arranged for mid January. (Although, as Martin pointed out to me earlier today, the likelihood is that it will be postponed due to the doctors and nurses being reassigned away from the joint replacement hospital I am going to. Thanks for cheering me up Martin).
Like every other human being on the planet, I have been reliant on my government to give me medical support through the pandemic. The vaccination programme has been a huge success – not because of the government but because of the scientists and the tremendous organisation of the NHS. Now I find that I don’t believe a single word emanating from this government of arrogant, self-serving, pompous, arrogant, callous liars. The motives behind every single word escaping their lips are suspect. The problem is that Chris Whitty, and other scientific experts, appear at press conferences alongside Johnson and they appear to be reluctant to contradict what he says. On Wednesday, Chris Whitty said that we should only mix with people that we really have to. At the same press conference, Boris Johnson said that he was not telling people to cancel Christmas parties. Well, who do you take more seriously? I’m no scientific expert but I do think I take what Chris Whitty says more seriously than what Johnson says. I don’t think Chris Whitty could make it any clearer that catastrophe, illness and death awaits anyone who is foolish enough to ignore his advice.
Two days before the press conference last Wednesday, I went for a pre-op assessment at a hospital in Crowborough. It was reassuring insofar as there was no sharp intake of breath when the nurses took my blood pressure or administered an ECG. However, I was reminded that three days before my operation I need to attend again for a COVID test. If I test positive, my operation will be postponed. My hip has been increasingly sore over recent months and my sleep is normally disturbed. On Saturday morning, I had to get up at 4:30 rather than lie in bed, in pain. Although I don’t want to be cut open and have an artificial object cemented onto my skeleton, I do want the pain to go away and I don’t want the operation to be cancelled.
The R number for COVID now, is between 3 and 4. A year ago, we were worried when it was above 1. I don’t trust the Tory government, I do believe it’s easy to get COVID and I don’t want my operation to be cancelled. As a result of this, I have come to the conclusion that I need to eliminate all social contact. Therefore, I have told Andy, Pete, Peter, Dave and Ewan that I won’t be seeing them any time soon. All my Christmas plans with my sister and her family have been cancelled along with all my Samaritans shifts. Roo and I have discussed this and come to a joint decision. We are in strict lockdown until the end of January. It feels shit.
Am I over reacting? No one seems to know. Many of my friends are socialising although some are being more cautious than others. I’ve received sympathy and understanding from people I’ve spoken to about this but no one seems to know. When the pandemic started, there were no decisions to be made. We all knew what to do. Stay At Home. Protect The NHS. Save Lives. Now we are dependent on a maniacal, self-obsessed, egomaniacal, ex-Etonian buffoon. No one seems to know.
Between May and September 1975, Neil Young recorded 11 songs at his house in Point Dume, near Malibu. In September 1975, he recorded a further five songs at his ranch near Sacramento. Eight of these songs were released in November on “Zuma“. One further track, “Through My Sails” was included on the album. It’s a magnificent album and his interplay with Crazy Horse is right up there with the best of his music.
Disc 8 of the Neil Young Archives Vol. 2 box set includes all eight of these previously released songs along with six others which are previously unreleased. “Ride My Llama”, “Pocahontas” and “Powderfinger” were re-recorded for “Rust Never Sleeps”(1979). “Too Far Gone” was re-recorded for “Freedom”. (1989) “Born To Run”, “Kansas”, “Hawaii” and “No One Seems To Know” had never been released until this year. This version of “Too Far Gone” with Poncho Sampedro on mandolin is especially brilliant.
“No One Seems To Know” is the last song on the disc. It’s a short, simple song with Neil Young accompanying himself on a piano. It is very similar to “Love In Mind” from “Time Fades Away“. Neil Young appears to have an infinite capacity to compose songs with a beautiful melody and a heart rending vocal. Lyrically, it’s a little obtuse. Love has gone – is the pain worth it? Maybe it is? “Once I was in love. Now it seems that time is better spent searching than in finding, but no one seems to know“
If only there were some rules, some leaders, some advice, some guidance. I yearn for a public health socialist state.