Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Worst Men Can Be...

It's a funny old world we live in, where some people become enraged to the point of apoplexy over a razor ad.  Gillette, it seems, has upset lots of people or, to be more accurate, men, by launching a new campaign which changes their familiar slogan of 'The best a man can get', to 'The best men can be', and which rejects masculine behaviours such as bullying, bigotry and sexism, instead emphasising more positive behaviours which confront and challenge such negative masculinity.  Which, you'd think, in this day and age, would hardly be controversial.  Yet social media has been full of foaming at the mouth loons vowing never to buy Gillette razors again because of this dismissal of 'masculinity'.  Let's just stop and think about that - for these idiots 'masculinity' apparently is defined by sexism, aggression and violence.  You can't be a 'real' man unless you disrespect women and intimidate those you perceive as being weaker or just 'different' to you.  Scary stuff - thee are attitudes tat many of us hopd had died out with the dinosaurs.  Or at least with the 1970s.  I remember growing u in the seventies being fed all this crap about how 'real' men didn't cry or betray their emotions lest they be seen as weak and how physical prowess was the only true measure of 'manliness'.  It was bullshit then and its bullshit now.  Except that there still seem to be a lot of morons out there who still believe it.  Presumably, they cling to these idiotic notions out of insecurity as to their own masculinity.

Whenever I see such outpourings of idiocy, I'm left wondering whether we're going backwards and these pillocks are growing in numbers.  Or, is it simply because the advent of social media gives them greater opportunities to vent their bile that it just seems that there are more and more haters out there.  Because the sad truth is that the disaffected and discontented are always far more likely to use any form of communication to shout about their (mainly imagined) grievances.  And if it isn't razor blade adverts enraging them, then it is commercials for HSBC which dare to suggest that the UK, whether it likes it or not, is part of a wider global community.  What amuses me about this particular example is that this particular campaign has been running for months, but the Brextremists have suddenly understood what it is saying and are complaining that it is 'Remain' propaganda.  Or there are always those vegan sausage rolls sold by Greggs - trust me, their presence doesn't stop anyone from buying and eating the real ones.  But that doesn't bother reactionaries like Piers Morgan, who realise they can get some more mileage out the non-issue by stirring up the morons with a few blustering Tweets.  Then there's all the hate directed at journalists like Owen Jones, who dare to challenge established political and social orthodoxy with their writing.  Now, I don't always agree with what Jones writes and I'm certainly not as enamoured with Jeremy Corbyn as he is, but the hate directed at him (particularly by a lot of those 'Tories-in-disguise' faux 'liberals' out there is astounding.  They are clearly intimidated by his intelligence and the fact that he actually appears to have some sort of principles, that they feel moved to engage in some 'traditional masculinity' with regard to him.

The irony, of course, that these reactionary whiners, who seem to get unreasonably upset by TV commercials and newspaper columnists who don't engage in racism and sexism (and have the audacity to criticise those who do), are also the very people who seek to label left wingers with consciences 'snowflakes'.  Yes, that's right, caring about the rights of the oppressed, standing up for equality and, well, just demonstrating some degree of compassion, is being 'oversensitive'.  We do indeed live in a funny old world these days.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

The Swedish James Bond

With its insatiable appetite for male orientated action films. Movies4Men chews its way through countless Jean Claude van Damme and Steven Seagal pictures, not to mention an apparently endless procession of spaghetti westerns and Italian war movies (and the odd Yugoslavian war movie, to boot) and lots of those cheap Sci Fi channel direct-to-DVD films.  In the midst of all this schlock, they sometimes turn up something completely unexpected, which, in addition to providing a new viewing experience for a couple of hours, also opens up a whole new world of pop culture hitherto unknown to oneself.  This weekend, for instance, I caught a 1998 film called Commander Hamilton, of which I knew absolutely nothing.  The cast and credits, (which included US actors like Peter Stormare and Mark Hamill and a Norwegian director), told me that it was an international co-production, rather than a Hollywood product.  It turned out to be an action/espionage epic which hopped from Sweden to Russia to the Middle East and took some strange turns - the climax feature the PLO as the good guys, helping the titular hero to foil an American millionaire villain's plot to detonate a stolen ex-Soviet nuclear warhead.  Surprisingly, not all the Russians were bad guys: just the ex-KGB and Russian mafia guys - the Russian cops were sympathetic characters who assisted the hero.

As it turned out, Commander Hamilton was a Swedish movie, which was clearly designed to be a break out production aimed at an international market, based on two novels by Jan Guillou which are themselves part of a long-running series about the 'Swedish James Bond', Carl Hamilton.  Of course, being Swedish, Guillou's character, despite being as ruthless and violent as Bond, has leftist and pro-Palestinian sympathies: the Israelis and Americans seem as likely to be the villains as the Russians or Chinese are in western spy stories.  On the basis of the film I saw and from what I've found out about the original books and other movie adaptations, Hamilton is also a much more complex character than Bond, with his stories posing various moral and ethical dilemmas as to the role of espionage organisations and secret agents when they operate within a democratic framework. 

The fascinating thing is that, before seeing this film, I had no idea that the Hamilton character even existed, despite the fact that he is huge in certain parts of continental Europe.  The non-English speaking parts, to be precise. It is another example of the cultural parochialism of the English-speaking world. There are vast swathes of non-English films, TV and literature out there which we are completely missing out on because we 'can't speak the language' and reading sub-titles is apparent 'too difficult'.  Hamilton is a prime example of tis: it turns out that, like James Bond, there have been numerous adaptations of the Jan Guillou novels since the late eighties, on both film and Swedish TV.  Stellan Skarsgaad was the first Hamilton, Mikael Persbrandt the most recent.  Indeed, the first of Persbrandt's two films as Hamilton was a massive hit across Europe.  But not in the UK or US.  (Unfortunately, it was rapidly followed up by a vastly inferior sequel which killed the prospect of any further films in the planned series.  A new TV series, however, with yet another lead actor, is due on Swedish TV this year).

As for the film Commander Hamilton, I have to say that, whilst quite slickly made, it did feel a little disjointed, which might have something to do with the fact that it was also released, with much additional footage, as a TV mini-series.  It actually demonstrated the same flaw as many Bond movies from the sixties and seventies, with the constant changes of locale leaving the viewer sometimes scratching their heads as to just why we're now in yet another exotic location.  Some of the dialogue feels clunky, which is a always a problem in this sort of international co-production, but most of the action scenes are pretty well done.  Overall, performances are also decent, although Stormare seems slightly odd casting for the lead, but delivers a degree of edginess which suits a trained assassin, while Mark Hamill seems to think that he's playing the villain in a Roger Moore Bond movie, it is, nonetheless, a very enjoyable performance).  Anyway, to wrap up and just for the hell of it, here's a selection of the many faces of Commander Hamilton over the years:

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Friday, January 11, 2019

The Wild Eye (1967)

It was inevitable that, after the phenomenal popular success of the first wave of Mondo movies, that they would suffer some kind of backlash.  From the outset, critics and 'serious' film makers had poured scorn upon them, casting doubt upon the authenticity of their footage and condemning their exploitation of  animal cruelty, indigenous peoples and the vulnerable to provide cheap shocks and thrills to Western audiences.  The Wild Eye is probably the first cinematic attempt to dissect the Mondo movie phenomena in dramatic terms, focusing on the efforts of a (fictional) cynical Mondo director to obtain the most sensational footage possible, regardless of the cost.  Interestingly, its director and co-writer is Paolo Cavara, who had collaborated with Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi on Mondo Cane and Women of the World.  Indeed, the cynical and ruthless Mondo director portrayed in the film was reportedly closely based upon Jacopetti, with whom Cavara had fallen out.

In terms of presenting a critique of the genre, The Wild Eye doesn't go much further than the aforementioned film critics had.  Its main innovation is to question the motivation of the Mondo film makers themselves, rejecting the defences variously used by former colleagues Jacopetti and Prosperi that they were either merely neutral observers who simply edited and packaged their 'found footage' into entertainment, or that they were using this footage to expose wider audiences to serious issues otherwise ignored by film makers.  Instead, he places them firmly in the role of agents provacateurs, deliberately and cynically creating their supposed 'found footage' by manipulating individuals and events, thereby falsifying any claims of veracity and purity of intent.  Of course, the problem in taking such a moral position is not only that Cavara himself was therefore party to such deceptions during his earlier career, thereby calling into question the veracity of his own approach to his material, but that The Wild Eye itself is as exploitative as the films it criticises, recreating their footage for the entertainment of its own audience.  Moreover, because the audience knows beyond any doubt that the faux Mondo footage presented in The Wild Eye is fake, it lacks the impact and thrill of the 'real' thing.  After all, much of the entertainment value of the Mondo genre comes from the audience's attempts to discern what is real and what is fake: without the possibility that some of the most appalling scenes might be real, then the frisson gained by watching it is gone.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Jazz Singer (1980)

The release of yet another version of A Star is Born last year made me think of another much-remade musical movie: The Jazz Singer.  While the 1927 original long ago secured its place in cinema history, the various remakes (a 1952 film starring Danny Thomas and a 1959 TV version starring Jerry Lewis) are largely forgotten, except, of course, for the notorious 1980 remake.  Sadly, it is remembered for all the wrong reasons: critically reviled and a box office flop, it is perhaps no surprise that there have been no further attempts to remake the property.  But is it really that bad?  Well, technically it is a well made movie, with its high production values showing the big budget.  But it is hampered by several factors - the most obvious being that its title no longer makes sense.  As with the previous two remakes, the protagonist no longer sings anything that could be described as 'Jazz'.  Updated, like those earlier versions, to a then contemporary setting, the film also updates the music to reflect contemporary styles, with Neil Diamond performing soft rock numbers.  (To be fair, the soundtrack album was a big hit, indicating that with the musical score, at least, the film had connected with a contemporary audience).

Another problem lies with the leading performances.  When he isn't singing, Diamond is muted and moody, whereas Laurence Olivier, playing his father, lays on the ham.  Using what became, in this phase of his film career, his familiar middle European accent, (also on display in Boys From Brazil, Dracula and Marathon Man), is ramped up with huge dollops of added 'Jewishness'.  His outrageous over  acting overbalances the film and threatens to drown out everyone else - especially Diamond.  But the biggest problem is that, despite all the attempts at updating, the film's plot just seems so old fashioned. Indeed, like previous versions, it follows the plot of the original pretty closely, (even referencing the 'black face' performances of the original, when Diamond tries to help out some black musician friends by blacking up to perform with them when a band member falls ill), delivering a film which just feels overly sentimental and cloying.  Unlike A Star is Born, which has a plot which can be played out in different eras and genres and is open to constant reinterpretation, The Jazz Singer's plot is firmly rooted in a very specific era and culture and attempts to remake it seem to indicate that it simply doesn't translate well to other eras and musical genres.  It is worth noting that the original owes its lasting fame less to any artistic merit it might have than to its technical achievement in being the first 'talkie'.  A 'unique selling point' that no remake could ever replicate, of course.


Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Political Posers

Oh my God!  Someone's spotted a drone!  Quick, shut down the entire country!  A second major airport shut down by phantom drones - really, this country is rapidly becoming a laughing stock.  If it isn't what are effectively toy helicopters bringing international air travel to and from the UK to a halt, it is farcical non deal Brexit rehearsals involving parking lorries on motorways.  Neo Nazi thugs, meanwhile, are apparently free to harass MPs and journalists outside of parliament without fear of police intervention.  We seem to be back in the same state of affairs we were in directly after the EU referendum result, with the PM effectively abdicating their responsibilities and other senior ministers more interested in bolstering their positions as potential successors to the Premier than in actually providing any leadership in the here and now.  It felt as if there was nobody at the wheel of the ship of state.  Two years on and it feels even more rudderless, with a Prime Minister going around in circles, refusing to accept defeat and attempt a new strategy and ministers spending their time posturing for the press in the vain hope of succeeding May.

The most blatant of these political posers of late has been the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who came hurrying back to the UK from his Christmas break to personally deal with an entirely manufactured 'crisis' about people trying to illegally enter the UK in tiny rubber boats.  The fact that such crossings go on week in, week out and are almost always unsuccessful hasn't deterred Javid from deploying the Royal Navy to deal with this 'threat'.  He's trying so hard to build up a 'macho' image with regard to immigration, in hope of wooing the Tory right in a possible leadership election, that I'm surprised he hasn't gone on TV, smashing bottles over his head, telling potential illegal immigrants that 'we're fucking mad here - so stay away if you know what's good for you!'  Either that, or we'll see him wading out to sea and attacking alleged immigrants' rubber boats with a carving knife, in an attempt to sink them before they can get to shore.  Perhaps he'll simply resort to arranging photo opportunities where he is seen personally grabbing immigrants by the scruff of the neck and hurling them back into the sea, shouting 'And stay out' after them.  Of course, the very fact that an utter mediocrity like Javid is even spoken of as a credible Tory leadership contender underlines what a desperate situation we're in right now.  I mean, really?  Worse still, incompetents like Jeremy Hunt (a man who only gets jobs when someone even less competent than him is sacked) and Dominic Raab (the man who, as Brexit Secretary, seemed surprised to learn that a huge proportion of Britain's trade is conducted via Dover, our major European port) are also spoken of as potential Prime Ministers-in-waiting.  Although, to be fair, none of them is as bad as the despicable Esther McVey, whose name has also been mentioned in connection with leadership bids.  Still, I suppose that if we're already a laughing stock in the eyes of the world, we might as well go the whole hog...


Monday, January 07, 2019

Protecting January

'Veganuary' is the latest abomination they are trying to foist on this first month of the year.  Is it any wonder that people routinely label January as being the most depressing month of the year when it is constantly being hijacked by various causes?  If it isn't vegans trying to steal our meat, then it is the anti-alcohol brigade trying to make us all go fry for a month on the pretext of improving out health.  We really need to protect January from these opportunists.  Now, I won't deny that moderating one's alcohol intake isn't a bad idea (for health reasons I've cut back on my drinking over he past year), but the idea of suddenly giving it up for a month in January isn't just madness, it is pure sadism.  I mean, if ever there was a month where alcohol was needed, it is January.  How else to soften the blow of having to g back to work after Christmas?  Or to blot out the debts run up to finance Christmas.  Let alone give us the strength to face another year of drudgery.  But if they aren't trying to get you to give up booze for January, then it is for October ('Stoptober').  I've always found these 'themed' months for giving things up as tiresome as I do the concept of 'New Year Resolutions':  if you are going to do something, whether it is giving up alcohol, cigarettes or farting in lifts, then just do it - don't wait for some arbitrary date.

But lets just return to 'Veganuary' for a while.  This is part of a concerted effort (pushed by The Guardian newspaper) to shove veganism down our throats.  Now, only the other day I saw an article somewhere asking why do people hate vegans so much?  Well, the fact is that isn't a case of hating the vast majority of vegans.  They've made a lifestyle choice and that's fair enough.  It is a personal choice which they have every right to follow and I'll happily support that right.  The problem comes with the evangelical wing of veganism which spends its time telling us non-vegans how evil we are and trying to convert us with their fire and brimstone scare tactics.  It isn't that they are vegans which makes them hateful, but rather their self-rightousness as they bang on about how cruel we are to breed animals just to eat them and use their products.  As if the animals care - they spend a lot of their time, left to their own devices, killing and eating each other.  It is this minority of vegans who we hate, just we hate all zealots and bigots.  Their refusal to accept that they still constitute a tiny minority in this country (despite The Guardian's constant attempts to big them up) really doesn't help.  If they would just stop trying to push their agenda onto the rest of us, we wouldn't hate them so.  After all, I don't go around force feeding sausage rolls to vegans and vegetarians - I practice live and let live, I even welcome the introduction of vegan sausage rolls at Greigs as a welcome act of inclusiveness.  So how about returning the courtesy vegan fanatics?


Friday, January 04, 2019

Busy Doing Nothing

I seem to have spent the larger part of the last couple of weeks doing bugger all.  A lot of that bugger all being done lying in bed.  There's a part of me which keeps trying to convince me that this has been a waste of two weeks off work, that I should have been out 'doing' things.  But the fact is that after the year I'd just endured, I needed all the rest that I could get.  Indeed, I've been surprised by just how tired I turned out to be - not only was last year exhausting, but I'm afraid that the continuing side-effects of my various medications, not to mention my ongoing diabetes, have taken their toll on my stamina and reserves of energy.  Still whether I'll actually feel 'refreshed' when I return to work next week is another question.  At least, from next week onward, I'll only be working a four day week, as I've decided to reduce my hours for the sake of my sanity, safety and health.   But as far as these past couple of weeks go, I never did catch up with those friends I was hoping to see - everyone seems to have followed my example of going into semi-hibernation this Christmas.  But I did catch up with some DVDs and I did make a start on sorting out the wiring on my model railway layout.  (I've also started testing a new - to me, at least - controller, which incorporates inertial controls and a brake simulator).

But, all-in-all, it has been a very quiet festive season for me and a slow, low key start to the New Year.  After all the unexpected turmoil of 2018, I'm keeping my ambitions and expectations for 2019 modest: just staying healthy will be an achievement.  But I can't keep drifting along, seeing what happens.  I'm really going to have to take some more positive action this coming year to try and push my life forward.  I'm tired of just meandering through life, waiting for stuff to happen.  Hopefully, with one less day of work a week, I'll have more time for stuff like home improvements, looking properly into possible career changes and the like.  Not to mention more time for podcasting, writing and the railway.  Maybe I'll even find time to catch up with those elusive friends.  In the meantime, I still have a stack of DVDs still to watch and several pieces of schlock from those already viewed to write up here, including the likes of Lucio Fulci's Lizard in a Woman's Skin and British sexploitation oddity Secrets of Sex.  The whole schclock movie thing was something that got somewhat neglected by me last year, as I was chiefly preoccupied with being ill for so long.  Hopefully, things can get back on track this year. So, there you have it: two weeks of doing bugger all to set me up for another fifty weeks of daily grind!


Thursday, January 03, 2019

Back After the Break - Yet Again

Only the second post of 2019 and already I'm resorting to old TV adverts.  I'm afraid that I've felt somewhat under the weather all day and, when not in bed trying to make up for a largely sleepless night, (thanks to aforementioned unwellness), I've been on the sofa watching DVDs.  So I've just not got the energy or inclination to come up with anything else for today.  Anyway, these ads come from 1982 and provide the usul selection of long forgotten advertising for long forgotten products.  Of course, many of the manufacturers are still with us, but with somewhat more sophisticated products and sales campaigns. Take Glade, for instance.  Is this the first of their air freshening products to be advertised on TV?  It certainly seems crude compared to their later products which plug into electrical sockets, don't have to be waved about by hand and make your house smell like a pine forest.  I remember the days when we didn't seem to care about such things - if your house was beset by the smell of burnt toast, or someone had let rip a particularly offensive fart, we just opened the windows and doors to let some fresh air in, or just waved newspapers around.  Most of the time, though, we just accepted that peoples' houses stank, but were too polite to mention it.

I have fond memories of those Green's cake mixes - my mother used to make a lot of them.  They came in various flavours and were a tea time favourite.  At one time we had a cat that liked sponge cake and would eat bloody great chunks out of the top if he found them unattended in the kitchen, while they cooled from the oven.  Even putting a cloth over them didn't deter him - the furry bastard somehow found a way of getting under the cloth, eating a chunk from the middle, then leaving the cloth looking undisturbed.  This, inevitably, caused much outrage and consternation when the sponge was uncovered for the filling to applied.  It's interesting to see the Post Office pushing its Giro Bank services so heavily but, of course, by 1982 Thatcher was in full swing, unemployment was rising and benefit payments were issued as Giro cheques.  It was also an era when a lot of people still didn't have bank accounts and the Post Office services were easier to set up and use.  (My Great Aunt, who died last year aged 96, never had a bank account, never trusting the banks. To the day she died, she swore by her Post Office savings account).  Those Cinzano Bianco ads with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins were all the rage back in the eighties and new ones were looked forward to the way the John Lewis Christmas ad is looked forward to these days.  I now, hard to believe, isn't it? 

But times change: nowadays, it would seem unlikely that a retired former policeman would be viewed as a suitable front man for selling anything, let alone tyres.  But back in the eighties, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Robert Mark was still remembered as the man who had, a decade earlier, cleaned up the Met, cracking down on corruption, with two senior officers being prosecuted and hundreds of other ranks dismissed or forced to resign.  So, if he told you that a particular brand of tyres were the safest on sale, you knew he was telling the truth.  Even in 1982, advertisers were still relying on racial and cultural stereotypes to sell their products.  In the case of Heineken, a Dutch based brewer, it's all good natured stuff, but the combination of jungle back drops, black singers and Caribbean musical rhythms to try and indicate that a Cabana chocolate bar is, well, 'exotic', seems somewhat suspect by today's standards.  And finally, back to the post office and a plug for stamp collecting. Now, there's something you wouldn't see advertised now.  It's hard to remember now, but stamp collecting used to be a huge hobby back in the day, although I'm surprised to see it getting a plug as late as 1982.

So, there you are, another trip down memory lane via the medium of TV commercials.  Hopefully, normal service will be resumed tomorrow...

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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

A Slow Start

What a dull start to the new year.  I don't just mean the largely overcast weather.  Everything has just been flat and dull.  The usual New Year's Day football schedule was reduced to just three Premier League matches, TV 'events' have been limited to an episode of Doctor Who (which was, I'll concede, somewhat better than the preceding series, but that isn't saying much) and the first of four new episodes of Luther, (a series which so badly wants to be a giallo movie, but falls short of the requsite style and truly crazy plotting).  Even the web has been dead all day, with next to no updates on social media and no new posting on the forums (or should that be fora?) that I follow.  Surely everybody can't be hungover?  I mean, despite being New Year's Eve, everywhere seemed to shut early yesterday, limiting the opportunities for seasonal binge drinking. I'm sure that New Year used to be a bigger deal than this - deep in the recesses of my memory I seem to recall the TV companies making an effort with their schedules and events going on to mark the New Year.  But apparently not anymore.  It seems to have fallen victim to the modern desire to pack away the Christmas season as quickly after Boxing Day as possible.  Indeed, this year, retailers seemed more eager than ever to sweep away all trace of Christmas: the seasonal goods started disappearing from the shelves on Christmas Eve in some shops and had all but gone by yesterday.  Large parts of the local Christmas market, (which is meant to be in situ until Twelfth Night) have already packed up and gone home.

Of course, according to the media, UK shops have seen disappointing Christmas sales, so obviously want to move on as quickly as possible, to find some other angle to try and get us to spend money.  As ever, the explanation for the troubles of the High Street all centre upon the increased popularity of online shopping.  But that seems far too simplistic.  IN the UK, at least, I'm sure that the presents problems have more to do with the uncertainties surrounding Brexit.  With the spectre of a No Deal Brexit and the possible economic chaos still looming over the country, people are simply not spending money.  While there's been a lot of talk of people buying and hoarding supplies in their 'Brexit Bunkers', the fact of the matter is that money is easier to hoard than tinned goods and medical supplies.  Until we have a clearer idea of what shape the economy is going to be in post-Brexit, people are going to be reluctant to spend their cash.  On anything.  So, Britain's shops could have a long wait for sales to pick up.  Not that I did anything to help today: I emerged only to buy a newspaper, spending the rest of the day either in bed or on the sofa.  And why not?  There was nothing else going on anywhere, after all.

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Monday, December 31, 2018

Not Remembering 2018

It's tempting, on a New Year's Eve, to do one of those retrospectives of the preceding year.  But, you know, I've always found that sort of thing tedious: I don't need a recap of the year - I was there, I know what happened and, in many instances, I don't want to be reminded.  The other temptation is to try and look forward to the New Year.  Something I also dislike: for one thing I think that the whole concept of New Year resolutions (which most of these exercises degenerate into) is utter bollocks, for another, the future is unknowable and it is pointless speculating about it.  Things never turn out the way you expect, (and trying to use the past as a guide to the future is equally pointless, as nothing ever happens the same way twice).  But, as my local pub has announced that it will be closed by ten at the latest tonight, I've got nothing better to do than write a few words about the year just ending.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that I won't be sorry to see the back of 2018.  What with losing three months to serious illness and troubles at work, (the two are, of course, inextricably intertwined), things didn't even start to return to some semblance of normality until the last couple of months of the year.  I'm finally feeling more my old self, (my old self from three or four years ago, that is, before the work stress started my downward spiral), and, hopefully, things will continue to improve over the coming months. 

But, despite everything that has happened, 2018 hasn't been the worst year I've ever known.  Not by  a long chalk.  After all, nobody close to me died, I didn't lose my job, I wasn't left struggling to keep paying the mortgage and stop myself becoming destitute - all things I've experienced in previous years.  (These days, of course, I no longer have a mortgage to pay - which has, as I've gotten used to the fact that it is now all paid off, radically transformed my attitude to work). I also, somehow, managed to keep The Sleaze going through all the troubles of the last year.  I'm not sure how - whereas in the past I've been able to plan stories weeks in advance, this year it was a hand-to-mouth existence, with stories written on the fly, on the day of publication.  Maybe I'll be able to keep it going in 2019.  Who knows?  Certainly not me - I don't even have a clue what the next story is going to be.  In fact, I don't seem to have much of a clue about anything any more.  One of the main reasons I don't like doing annual retrospectives is that, at the best of times, I can never remember what happened in the previous twelve months.  This year it's even worse: having spent a quarter of the year laid up sick, I haven't a bloody clue what went on.  It's pointless trying to do a 'top ten books I read in 2018', for instance, as I don't bloody recall parts of the year with any clarity.  But enough of all this, I'm going to settle down and welcome the New Year with a Dario Argento movie, some beer and some sausage rolls.  I've no 'witty' posts to make on social media to mark the arrival of 2019, as seems de rigreur these days when a New Year rolls around, so I'll just wish you a Happy New Year here and now.  See you next year.

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