Pissed-off Toff decides on the future direction of his blog. And he launches a regular diary, as a bad-tempered weekly fixture.
I have been thinking about the way forward for Pissed-off Toff. There is so much to write about. But what form is it to take? What deserves a line? Or a paragraph? And what deserves a whole piece to itself?
From now on, the form will be as follows.
I will write a weekly diary, mainly bad-tempered. And over and above this – say once every ten days or so – I will write a full-length piece about anything I wish. It might be another piece about how much I have come to hate the Johnson clown who now rules by diktat. Or it might be something about the hilarious ‘Lady’ Colin Campbell … or about the ghastly Mary Beard … or it might be a review of The Devil Wears Prada. All these pieces are in the pipeline.
So that is what you will get from now on: a weekly rant in diary form, with other stuff, mainly polemical, thrown in as the mood dictates.
Here goes …
* * * * *
WEDNESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER
Since Monday of this week, no gathering of more than six people is legal in England, either inside or out … as per the diktat of Matt ‘the prat’ Hancock.
The good thing about this latest act of tyranny is that police helicopters are no longer hovering over my home in Westminster to ‘observe’ the Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter rallies and assemblies which, until recently, have taken place hereabouts on an almost daily basis.
I write ‘observe’ in inverted commas, because as I have noted before, the only reason why the fuzz take to the skies in their shiny new choppers, paid for by the rest of us, is because they enjoy the outing; little matter that these airborne sallies serve no purpose and that the hellish din they make turns the whole of central London into a war zone, destroying any peace of mind that the hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens below might have been enjoying.
The less good thing is that although the police choppers have for the time being disappeared, the builders have returned … their absence having been one of the few consolations of ‘lockdown’. Throughout the day the drilling and banging and crashing next door drive me mad. This torture will, I am informed, last for several months.
THURSDAY 17 SEPTEMBER
A reader writes in to inform me that he is selling up and leaving the country. He can no longer bear to witness our national suicide. Nor does it help that he works in the oil sector, and that his company has been illegally targeted by Extinction Rebellion, about whom the police do nothing. So he’s off, keeping just a pied-à-terre here, while “preparing to view the destruction of my poor old country from the badlands of Bolivia and Chile,” as he puts it. First, though, he plans an extended road trip down the west coast of South America, where he will travel on a cargo ship with his motorbike.
He ends his email with various predictions, one of which is “total financial meltdown in the early New Year.” Sounds about right to me.
FRIDAY 18 SEPTEMBER
A beautiful late summer day with a clear blue sky. My gloom about our act of national suicide is in temporary abeyance, and on an impulse I decide to ring my old friend SP, who is now king of British publishing and to whom I have not spoken for too long. However, not wanting my impromptu telephone call to inconvenience him, I think it best to go through his assistant; and would the switchboard operator be good enough, before she puts me through to said assistant, to provide me with his – or, indeed, her – name?
“We have a no-name policy,” comes the reply. So I explain that I have known SP since Oxford days, and to establish my bona fides I read off, from the cards in my box-files, the names of two of his assistants from the past. This fails to impress.
Well then, says I, trying another approach: before the operator puts me through to the assistant, who might or might not be available, perhaps she would confirm that I still have the correct email address for SP; and I read it out: first-name dot surname at …
“Yes, that’s right,” says the woman, rather to my surprise. Firstly because I am by now getting the impression that if you were to ask her what day of the week it was, she would reply that she was not authorised to divulge that information; and secondly, because in confirming my friend’s email address with its revealing format, she is breaking her company’s ‘no-name policy’.
Anyhow, she puts me through to the desk of SP’s nameless assistant. Who is absent, no doubt thanks to Covid 19. All earlier enthusiasm spent, I terminate the call and retreat once more from a world which becomes darker by the day.
SATURDAY 19 SEPTEMBER
Yippee, I thought, when I turned the bedside light out in the early hours of this morning. Tomorrow’s the weekend, so there won’t be any builders. No crashing and banging and drilling all day long. No extended noise torture.
But the Devil had other tricks up his sleeve, because from about 7am onwards, one of those street-cleaning buggies got to work. Up and down it went, outside my bedroom, time and time again, producing a loud mechanical whine that went straight through my head. And when it moved on to the next street, the noise hardly abated; the unbroken walls of the mansion blocks hereabouts acting as a soundbox.
Go back to sleep? Impossible. Get up, make coffee and read quietly in bed? Impossible. Nor, by now, did the cloudless beauty of this late-summer day offer any consolation.
“The amount of noise that anyone can bear stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity,” wrote Schopenhauer. In which case, I must be one of the greatest geniuses ever born. Mechanical and electronic noise is, for me, unbearable. I can’t take it.
I was an unhappy bunny before this accursed ‘lockdown’. But I feel close, now, to some sort of tipping point. I am worried by the intensity of the rage that wells up within me as I contemplate our national suicide. And I am even more susceptible to noise than before.
* * * * *
Or perhaps I just can’t bear getting older and I can’t bear the thought of all those lost opportunities.
Two girls in their early twenties, both in the full flower of youth and desirability, turned up at the flat today, guests of the new lodger. I spoke to them for as long as was decently possible, aware that they could have been my own daughters, but powerless against the promptings of nature.
By now the loathsome cleaning buggy was long gone … but had, in short time, been replaced by a helicopter hovering overhead, its blades thrashing the air so that you didn’t just hear it; you felt it, too, through the shock waves. As I now know, helicopter = rally. And one of the fair maids informed me that there was an anti-lockdown demonstration in Trafalgar Square taking place with the slogan of ‘Resist and Act for Freedom’.
So off I went, glad to contemplate almost anything other than female beauty and the passing of youth.
* * * * *
By the time I arrived, the demo had largely petered out. But the police were there, in force. So much for ‘cuts’ to police funding. They would seem to be more numerous and better funded than ever … and earning a lot of overtime.
As just this one demonstration makes quite clear, the police have long since stopped bothering about apprehending criminals, and have become the willing footsoldiers of an oppressive totalitarian state, their chosen targets no longer crooks and thieves, but ordinary people. It is no longer a rhetorical exaggeration to call them the Stasi. That is what they now are.
Look at them:
Here’s a chap who is unhappy about the overnight supression of our liberties.
And here, for some reason I cannot fathom, is a chap having a haircut on the pavement. I wouldn’t want to dine out with either of these men. But I’m with them.
SUNDAY 20 SEPTEMBER
I go out to buy The Sunday Times. “£10,000 fine for people who fail to self-isolate,” reads the headline, in huge letters.
On top of everything else, this is too much. I pace around the flat, furiously. I pick up my mobile and ring a couple of friends, who do not answer, luckily; and I leave enraged messages, which I later regret.
My state of mind is more fragile than ever. I cannot judge things any more. I no longer know whether what I write is good. I am consumed by hatred of ‘Boris’ Johnson and by contempt for the fools who are destroying our country, all in the name of a virus that is no longer a virus, but a symptom of mass insanity.
I am living in a science-fiction film set in a mad dystopian future. Except that it’s not some awful fantasy. It’s all too real.
I sit down at the piano and try to lose myself in Prelude XXI by Bach.
TUESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER
Today is the first day of autumn. And autumn chill comes in the form of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, broadcast at 8pm on ITV. I watch it, notebook and solid gold pen in hand. This talk is so mendacious, so dishonest, and so contemptible, that I will deal with it, line by line, in a separate piece, to appear shortly.
* * * * *
I watch tonight’s episode of the remake of All Creatures Great and Small. I suppose it is meant to cheer one up. But it fails. Because would it be possible to improve on the 1970s screen adaptation of James Herriot’s books? No. Could anyone be better than Robert Hardy as Siegfried Farnon, the eccentric, charming and irascable vet? No. Could any new production begin to capture the innocence and essence of the original as well as they did back then? No. So why the remake in any case? Why not do something entirely different?
There is also the fact that whereas the late-1970s series was filmed 45-odd years after the events it portrays, the new version is filmed almost 90 years later. It is therefore that much more difficult, production-wise, in terms of sets and locations. And this shows. Thus whereas each episode of the 1970s series opened with a magical sequence filmed in the unspoiled landscape of north Yorkshire, the opening credits of new series appear against a background of 1930s-themed artwork, as on the cover of some old magazine. This, presumably, because the countryside has been ruined; plus, it’s cheaper and easier. And whereas the theme-tune of the original series is pure joy, the new series gives us a feeble pale take on it. From the outset, therefore, it is clear that if the original TV series was vintage champagne, the new one is cheap prosecco.
The new series now proceeds to get things quite simply wrong. Thus we hear Siegfried saying, of his work-shy younger brother Tristram: “Properly motivated, he pulls his finger out.” Whilst the ‘unmotivated’ Tristram describes the housekeeper’s roast potatos as ‘more-ish’. Back in the 1930s educated males never spoke like that, and to put these vulgar words from a later era into their mouths is to make a basic mistake.
Plot-wise, this Tuesday’s episode is concerned mainly with the doings of Tricky-Woo, an over-indulged Pekinese, and his mistress, Mrs Pumphrey. The 1970s film gets it perfectly, sublimely right. But suddenly and unaccountably, the new version goes all Merchant & Ivory. So rather than being the middle-class widow of a prosperous northern industrialist, as in the books and the 1970s series, Mrs Pumphrey is now some dowager duchess in a stately home only slightly less grand than Castle Howard, with Old Master paintings and liveried footmen galore. Again, it’s just plain wrong … and although one is meant to celebrate this as Diana Rigg’s last screen appearance, I wish she’d never done it, and far prefer to remember her as Tracy opposite James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
All right, all right. Watch this if you must. It’s better, I suppose, than watching the Johnson criminal and his band of fools and knaves destroy the country, enslave its inhabitants and reduce us all to snivelling beggary.