Saturday, May 27, 2017

Close to home

Very soon after waking each morning I check the online newsfeed from The Guardian. Today there was a photo-carousel image that stopped me in my tracks. I called up the front page and was able to confirm that the two ferociously armed police officers are on the beach at Scarborough.

The town that in the seventeenth century became Britain's very first seaside resort has a special place in my heart. It was never exactly my home, but for the first seventeen years of my life no summer passed without a family holiday there. It was a perfect place to 'grow up', a place where not much ever happened.

Certainly Scarborough had been spared anything as horrendous as Monday's terror attack on innocents in Manchester.

Well, at least since 1914. Then 'Men of Britain' were reminded that seventy-eight women and children had been among the 137 fatalities when on that December morning the Imperial German Navy opened fire on Scarborough before moving on to bombard  other East Coast seaports, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool and Whitby. 

Hello Sandlanders!

Tempus f***it

Thursday, May 25, 2017

It has come to this

It was in 1971 that I turned my back on this scepter'd isle to make continental Europe my home. Then if photographs such as these had been imagined, I'd have written off the idea as dystopian pessimism indulged in by conspiracy theorists. How things change.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Le parfum

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The new normal

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Unless my reading of the published data is very wrong indeed, it would appear that the market cap of Gafa (Google / Apple / Facebook / Amazon) is almost equal to the 2015 Gross Domestic Product of France. Less than the figures for the United Kingdom or Germany, but more than Italy!

Will Gafa be sending an envoy to the next G7 summit?


The sky is cloudless, a high of 16 degrees is forecast and so all seems set fair for the annual neighbourhood flea-market day. Improvised stalls on the pavements of Schwabing-West  are piled high with what residents seek to get rid of in their effort to de-clutter their lives.

The three R's... or four?

In the Washington Post, Cathy Davis asked in January 2012
"What basic skills do kids today need to thrive in the 21st century digital age? The three R’s of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic were deemed essentials of mandatory public schooling in the 19th century Industrial Age where mass printing and machine-made paper and ink made books available to just about everyone for the first time in history. A student today needs a fourth R:  Reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic  and ’rithms, as in algorithms, or basic computational skills.  By getting the youngest kids started on algorithmic or computational thinking, we give them the same tool of agency and being able to make (not just receive) digital content that the three R’s gave to Industrial Age learners."

Can't argue with Ms Davis, although at my age I think I'm entitled to stick with just the three defined skills. Although thanks to BookBub my reading is staying affordable with free books and titles not costing more than EUR 0.99, there's Matthew Hall's new episode in his coroner Jenny Cooper series priced at EUR 9.66, an Elly Griffiths at EUR 9.99 and the latest case for Kommissar Pascha by Su Turhan for EUR 11.99 on my Amazon 'wish-list'. I shall, I fear, weaken and allow myself one of these this month!

This 'R' could also stand for Research. As I have admitted before, following search threads across the vastness of cyberspace is a wonderful way of filling the workng hours of a day. Much of my exploration is still focused on the years 1935 to 1940 in Germany. An intriguing chance discovery only days ago was the fact that the Nazis 'weaponized' innocent toys!

Board games such as Wir fahren gegen Engeland, ‘We’re sailing against England’, Wir Kampfen gegen den Feind ‘We fight against the enemy’ or Jüden raus, ‘Jews out’ (produced commercially without the support of the Nazi regime by the opportunists at Günther & Company in Dresden) encouraged children to compete with miniature weaponry to conquer enemy lands and clear gaming boards of pieces depicting caricatures of helpless or greedy Jews. I am mightily puzzled with regard to the thinking behind the example below, however; the ‘target’ appears to be in the immediate vicinity of Scarborought, exactly where I was located from about 1942 to 1944!

Doing the maths is instructive. It seems that in the month of February two individuals purchased Kindle editions of stories I had written, earning me around EUR 3.50. Given the paltry income deriving from my efforts as author, it is a blessing that for the past few weeks I have been remunerated for 'fact-checking' and in effect editing the work of an American writer whose chosen storyworld is the same murky German decade which still fascinates me with its ambiguities.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


The Netto supermarket is conveniently closer for an old man for whom shopping is an emphysmatic shuffle. But Tengelmann delivers!

Monday, May 15, 2017

En marche!

On the 9th of May, days before yesterday's inauguration of the new French president, the term ‘Macronisme’ returned 30,700 Google results, and ‘Macroniste’ 43,800. A week later the tally is 43,900 and 70,500 respectively. Even if almost eleven million voters cast their ballot for his  nationalist populist opponent, the improbable new man in the Elysées Palais will be watched closely, not only by the French but also by citizens of the twenty-seven nations remaining in the European Union.

Should we anticipate a twenty-first century French revolution, a sixième république, a post-Gaullist construct suited not only to an overdue reform of the nation’s governance, but also a matrix for the belated modernisation of the EU? Can we expect from Emmanuel Macron a bold historic realo-futurist agenda? He will assuredly not hoodwink us with the promises which amount to little more than a ‘better yesterday’. But does he have the courage to scare the shit out of us with a comprehensive and reasoned picture of the difficult and radically different ‘tomorrows’ that await us during the five years of his presidency and beyond.

The Guardian’s writer asks…

"What is in Macron’s in-tray as president? France’s youngest president takes over a country exhausted by years of unemployment and facing a constant terrorist threat. So what will his first moves be? First, Macron, who comes from no established political party, needs to appoint a prime minister and a cabinet, and ;win a parliamentary majority in next month’s election. Next, he will need to swiftly fulfil some of his manifesto promises, including streamlining ;France’s strict labour laws in favour of businesses, overhauling the ethics rules for politicians, and strengthening ties with Germany’s Angela Merkel and the rest of the EU." 

Above all, however, President Macron must be uncompromisingly blunt. His compatriots are already tragically aware that the ‘new normal’ takes into account the murderous exploits of radicalized extremists or of mental defectives misusing a muddled understanding of jihadism as an excuse for their actions. Currently not only the French but the world population is reeling from the upheaval occasioned by the spectral perpetrators of cyberwar. Macron cannot pretend to guarantee security in either of these contexts.

He can and must make it abundantly clear that the ‘world of work’ will never again be as it was before. The robots are here to stay and their proliferation is unstoppable. Artificial Intelligence lurks everywhere in our ‘Internet Of Things’. Not only France must face the ominous reality of the digital hegemony exercised by ‘Gafa’, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, American cultural imperialism at its most virulent. Add the vicissitudes of a post-truth world in which rational discourse loses out to incoherent Tweets and ‘alternative facts’ and the overall picture becomes even more bleak.

Nevertheless the hope must be that a Macron who refuses to disguise the realities of today and tomorrow by ‘telling it like it is’ will strip away the outdated illusions which have impeded societal and economic progress for far too long. When Oscar Wilde first saw Niagara Falls, he said, “It would be more impressive if it flowed the other way.”

Maybe that sums up what could soon happen in France and in Europe.