Sunday, 20 December 2015


It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.
Podemos won't win tonight, but they might win tomorrow: so say the polls, officially illegal in Spain during the last week of the campaign, but in fact freely available provided you look at Twitter and understand the less-than-complicated coded language that @Electograph uses.

The display purports to tell us the prices of fruit and vegetables in the market of Andorra la Vella (handily outside Spain, something that has proved most convenient for the large number of Spanish and Catalan companies and political figures who have found the statelet a convenient location for their bank accounts). It also tells us how many stalls are expected to be selling each comestible, the largest number being for blue fish, blue being coincidentally the colour of the Partido Popular, while the purple aubergines stand in for Podemos, standing second, in a campaign which they began a fair way fourth.

I've always liked that circle: it reminds me, though it is not intended to, of the Circle of Life.
"We in Mand are so very far from the Revolution that maybe we are near it," said one of the girls, wistful and smiling: "The Circle of Life!" and she showed the extremes meeting, in the circle of her slender, dark-skinned fingers.
It has been, oh, thirty-three years, or thirty-four, since I first read Le Guin's The Dispossessed, and believed afterwards, for a period of time, that we could change the world and had something better we could change it to.

It wasn't a long period of time: it lasted until the miners lost. Or rather less than that, given that I never really believed that they were going to win. But I remember standing in Trafalgar Square, at the end of February 1985, watching the fighting outside Downing Street as the police piled into the last big march of the strike, and deciding, knowing, that the game was up, not just for the miners but for everything else I was hoping for. I was nineteen.

And here I am, at fifty, and in a few hours the election - in which I do not have a vote - is over, and though Podemos will not win, there might, there almost just possibly maybe might, be the numbers for a government they could head, if they come ahead of PSOE, if a dozen other things go well. And then what? Who knows then what. We have peanuts, beer and wine in for the election show tonight. That's as close as I like to get now.

At some point always comes the disappointment: tonight, tomorrow, some time after that but not long delayed.
"You knew this, Winston," said O'Brien. "Don't deceive yourself. You did know it - you have always known it."

Yes, he saw now - he had always known it
We have always known it. But we keep hoping all the same.

Just over two weeks ago, a touch before the campaign officially began, I was working in a primary school in Valladolid. As many schools do, they played music at the start and end of break, rather than inflict a school bell on kids young enough to be spared its tedium and harshness. Normally a school will play something short, cheerful and bouncy (and even something inappropriate, like the school in Madrid which plays My Shirona) but the music teacher, who got to make the choices, had decided to play Ludovico Einaudi's Nightbook.

The kids didn't seem to mind, or even to notice how intense the Einaudi was. But I felt it. And it was a cold week, snow on our van the first morning, a freezing mist putting hands into warmer gloves and gloves into warmer pockets - and even inside, where the heating was on at least part of the day, it was gloomy, the direction of the sun completely lost to us.

Then Einaudi, reinforcing the gloom, intensifying it, filling me with foreboding. And prompted by that mood, I realised something was bothering me - and that this was that I never got my head round what happened, so quickly, in Greece. As if it was a bad experience that I had registered, set aside for lack of time, but needed to have affect me, even knock me over, some time later. As if I had tried to miss it at the time, and managed, or half-managed. But it had not missed me.

Not just Greece, though, but all the sadnesses and disappointments from thirty years beforehand. And the Circle of Life. And the miners.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Michael X

Michael Gove is very concerned about radicalisation. He used to be concerned about radicalisation in schools and now he's concerned about radicalisation in prisons.
Islamist extremists are attempting to radicalise prisoners by deliberately getting custodial sentences or gaining jobs in jails, according to the Prison Officers Association (POA).

The warning comes as the justice secretary, Michael Gove, has ordered a review of how the prison and probation service tackle the radicalisation of offenders. The review will include an investigation into Muslim preachers radicalising inmates, according to the Sun.
How very odd. Odd, because one thing that everybody knows about Michael Gove is that when he was Education Secretary, he had a portrait of Malcolm X on his wall.

The Guardian last year referred to
the twin pictures of Malcolm X and Margaret Thatcher on Gove's office wall
while the Statesman, month before last, preferred
in his Whitehall office, Gove hung pictures of Lenin and Malcolm X.
In 2011 Channel Four had
He's got a picture of Malcolm X on his secretary of state's office wall to drum the message home.

He's also got a picture of Barack Obama there. And Lenin too
and last year the Financial Times had
Alongside Theodore Roosevelt, Barack Obama and Margaret Thatcher is the unyielding image of Lenin – whom Gove claims invented the phrase “education, education, education” – and the portraits of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.
Why the different accounts, who can say. Maybe some of the writers actually witnessed the portraits and others were just trying to remember what the other ones had said. Or maybe the interviewers were too dazzled by Gove's legendary politeness to check the portraits properly. Still, Malcolm X is common to all the accounts. Everybody knows his portrait was on Michael Gove's wall at Education.

Maybe it still is, now Gove has moved to Justice. You'd kind of like to know.

Because one thing that everybody knows about Malcolm is that he found Islam in prison. He was radicalised, while in prison. He was so radicalised, in prison, that the FBI opened a file on him. He fitted almost every description of the sort of man who Michael Gove is seeking to root out.

But Michael Gove had a picture of Malcolm X on his office wall.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Killing a pig

I think I killed a pig on Friday night. A jabalí, a wild boar, but only a little one, one of three or four crossing the old road just beyond Siétamo. Normally you're lucky if you see a wild boar at all, though there's lots of them about: they keep themselves well hidden in the daylight hours, and if you see them at all it's either alongside the road at dusk or later, or sometimes crossing the road, but at a distance, in the daytime. But these ones were unlucky: they crossed the road long after dark but too close to the car that was coming round the bend and up the hill. I saw them far too late - so late that by the time I realised I had seen them, we'd collided.

It wasn't the bend that did it so much as the hill, which rises unevenly, almost in a set of levels, so that what's in front of you is hidden intermittently. But you're not expecting to see anything, in the lane ahead of you, that you didn't know was there already, assuming nobody is recklessly overtaking in the downhill, opposite direction, in which case you'd have no chance. The road used to be a dangerous one, combining single carriageways with frequent, long and half-blind bends, and then, on top of that, being the main road from Huesca to Barcelona, an ideal combination for the accident waiting to happen, the driver going a long way, in too much of a hurry, and given too many chances to go wrong. But then they built the motorway alongside, taking away ninety per cent of the traffic and leaving just the locals, who know the road and the places that you have to watch. But not the local wild boar, who didn't know. It wasn't any of their fault. But it was them who had no chance.

I had just - just that instant - passed a car coming downhill and the piglets appeared in the beam immediately I switched it back to full. Although there must have been a sequence - light, pigs, collision - and though I spent much of the night trying to separate them, they might as well have been simultaneous for all the difference that it made, or, for that matter, for all that I can separate them in my mind. I spent much of the night that followed trying to remember exactly what had happened. Or that's what I thought that I was doing - more likely I was trying to remember it as one often "remembers" an event that one wishes had not happened, trying to picture it until it comes out differently. The ball that hit the post goes in, instead. The space appears between the pigs and the car goes neatly through it.

But the collision happened, a thud on the nearside front. Had they been full-grown boars it might have been the car which suffered most, or come to that the driver. It was a hard noise, like somebody had kicked the front, and I expected something to be dented. I've had a hare run manically into the headlight before now, killing itself instantly yet doing no apparent damage whatsoever to the car. (I was too surprised, at the time, to even take the dead hare home for somebody without an urban upbringing to skin and eat it.) But this was a bigger noise, a thump rather than a bang, but a thump nevertheless. I drove perhaps another hundred and fifty metres, maybe more than that, turning off the road at the first safe place, the opening to a path to one of the many fields and olive orchards alongside the road, down which the farmers take their tractors. In the old, busy days of the road, their emergence was another of the things you had to look out for. If you knew enough to do so.

 I stopped and took the torch from the glove compartment. I went round to the front of the car and there was no apparent dent, not at the first look. The car is white and any damage should have been easy to see. But I seemed to have got away with it, until I looked further downwards, at the ground, and saw that there was a trickle of liquid from the bottom of the car, running down the path. I know nothing about cars - aside from a few weeks when I had a job out of town, I never drove one at all between the age of twenty-two and forty - but I assumed that this was something serious and I should go no further. I called home and waited for R to arrive in our van. She was there in less than half an hour.

We put out triangles and put on fluorescent jackets, as the Spanish law requires. We called the Guardia Civil and the insurance: the former sent a patrol car and the latter sent a pick-up, which took the car away and back to Huesca ciudad. It's a very long weekend and the garage doesn't open until Wednesday morning. There did, on closer inspection, appear to be a little damage above the wheel. Our insurance isn't going to cover it.

The whole thing was stupid though. I could have got home without difficulty: the flow of liquid was only from the reservoir that holds the fluid for the windscreen wipers, which must have cracked. I didn't need it to get home. I didn't need us to call the police or the pick-up. I didn't even need R to come and pick me up.

But at least I got home all right. Nobody else saw anything of the jabalís. You couldn't hear the noise of braking, or of cars slowing in order to swerve. R turned round beyond the point where the collision happened and said she couldn't see a body. No blood, no evidence of anything.

But I know it must have been more than the pig could stand. I hope it didn't live too long with whatever pain I'd made it suffer. I remembered Inside Llewyn Davis, when he similarly hits the cat on the road, and though he sees it limp into the woods, he knows, and we know too, that it couldn't possibly survive. I know what happened. It was practically a baby, just crossing the road with its family, and had I not been coming it would have made it safely and been home that night as well. Loads of wild boar round here, one of the officers said at one point. No doubt there are. But one less now, and one that I kept thinking about, that night and the next day, trying to imagine it all over again so that I missed it this time, as if the only one who cares about the dead is the man who did the killing.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Syrian Job

I gather you've been in lndia for two years, sir.
Yes, shooting tigers.

You must have shot an awful lot of tigers, sir.
Yes, I used a machine gun.
I often think of The Italian Job when we're driving through the mountains just to the north, between where we live and the border with France. We go there in our VW Transporter van, or our Nissan Micra, rather than a Lamborghini, so we take the bends more slowly and less smoothly than Rossano Brazzi does in the opening credits. But the feeling is much the same, that once you're there, you're up and away, unbothered, on your own apart from the very occasional cars that come past the other way. The snow comes into view and Matt Monro comes with it, smooth as the sweep of Brazzi's Miura.

No harm can come to anybody here, it seems, as long as they stay on the road: and that's what makes the end of the scene so jarring, when the car enters the tunnel and runs into a JCB parked at the exit. I can remember seeing the movie as a kid: I was impressed with the way the broken car rolled right the way down the mountainside and into the river.

The other jarring thing about the sequence, is that however great, it doesn't fit the movie that it opens, a caper movie with comedy Italians outwitted by comedy Brits. It's not so much that Brazzi's ride ends so abruptly: it's that neither the carefree mood of his drive, nor the suddenness of his death, make a proper match with the sudden appearance of a bunch of clowns in black hats standing on alternate ledges while another clown rolls a wreath (why?) into the river. It's as if the opening was a trailer for a film different to the one that was actually shown.

I've not actually seen the film in many years, not all the way through, though I've seen bits and pieces, dubbed into Spanish, a couple of times in hotel rooms on the Paramount Channel. I can't imagine what the Spanish make of it, whether they know who Noël Coward is or care what he's doing in prison, whether they give a monkey's (si les importen un pito) if those three lads in Union Jack helmets driving Minis get away from the police through the Turin sewers, or whether they have any interest in unpicking what is patriotic flagwaving, what is ironic reference to the same and what is both at the same time. Presumably people have the same problem with James Bond.

The subtext of the film is of course that Britain won the war, even though Germans in the movie are thin on the ground (although Rossano Brazzi's character is called Roger Beckermann, and the novelisation of the film featured German as well as Italian gangsters). Still, we beat the Italians as well, and the one thing we all know about our history is that we won the war. We even knew that in the playground - we used to parade round chanting
We won the war!
In nineteen sixty-four!
which especially amuses me, now, given that one thing I do in schools is to give a talk about the first moon landing, which the kids - aged ten to twelve - may place at any point in the last century or even the previous one. The film itself is set in 1969 - the football match portrayed was a friendly that England won 1-0 - and England could still feel they were the best team in the world, even if they had only been third in the previous year's European Championships, also held in Italy. As it turned out, that was the last time England finished ahead of Germany, West or united, in an international tournament until they were third to Germany's fourth in Group A in the European Championships thirty-two years later.

I first watched the film as a child and you have to, really: it's a childish film, but a good one if you watch through eyes that should be old enough to know a little bit better. Troy Kennedy Martin scripted and came up with one of my favourite exchanges in cinema, reproduced  above. It was all childish fun and games back then. Gangsters were only comedy gangsters and if the heroes didn't win in the end they didn't actually fall off the edge of the cliff. But a decade and a half later Kennedy Martin would close Edge of Darkness with a terrorist attack on NATO, and one of which the viewer is expected to approve.

It was much simpler back when it was all about us, and the fact that we'd beaten Hitler. Everybody knows that we beat Hitler, and that as much as anything may explain why it is always Hitler who is invoked whenever we are considering fighting anybody else. Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, whether it is the death cult Hitler or the dictator Hitler fighting them or the other Hitler who is fighting on the same side as the second one.

I imagine we could go in easily enough, if we have to (which they will probably have to, though they say that they will not) and drive the death cult away from the centres of population whose people they have spent the last two years persecuting. And then, there they will be, with Assad and Hezbollah to the west of them, the Russians and the Turks to the north, the Iranians and Iraqis to the east of them and the Saudis to the south, but all of these - and the people they are giving arms to - mixed in together and either allied to or fighting one another. And what will happen then?

What will happen is that David Cameron will turn round and say to us:
Hang on a minute lads. I've got a great idea.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Swimming to the caliphate

No-one could really figure out how something like that could have happened.
I must have seen Swimming to Cambodia pretty much when it came out, in 1987. I think I actually saw it before I saw The Killing Fields, which had come out three years earlier and which you probably need to have seen in order to make Swimming to Cambodia entirely comprehensible. The Killing Fields itself is about destruction and mass murder in Cambodia - which may not be entirely comprehensible at all.

You can try, though. It's an Enlightenment thing: part of the long project of freeing us from the spell of superstition and the yoke of religious authority was, and is, the insistence that all things are subject to rational explanation, that the allied powers of reason and scientific investigation can ultimately provide us with explanations. It's permanently a work in progress: never completed, like Paul Valery's art, but unlike that art, never abandoned unless we choose to do so.

We can abandon it. We can opt for unreason and most people, on one level or another, choose to do so: the number of people who care what is true is nearly always smaller than the number who do not. We mostly fit our facts to our opinions, like we were choosing curtains to suit a room already painted. It doesn't make us killers - much of the mass mechanical killing of the twentieth century, of which the murder of Cambodia was one of the final acts, was carried out by people who thought they knew the truth, and many of the victims were people who had lived happily and harmlessly without concerning themselves too much about it.

You don't have to opt for reason. But you can try.

There's a passage I remember - in the sense of remembering being struck by it, rather than remembering it like a poem that I once learned for recital - in Swimming to Cambodia. It's not the one below, though the one below is striking too.

The passage I remember describes how the Khmer Rouge became the thing it did, paranoid beyond all understanding, industrial in nothing but its means of committing and recording murder. It's recorded thus on IMDB: I'm not sure they have it down completely accurately but I don't have the original, or the text, to check against. It may be close enough. I like it as it is.

It doesn't insist on any single given explanation for the Khmer Rouge. It doesn't shy away from ideology
an education in Paris environs in strict Maoist doctrine with a touch of Rousseau
nor even the role of the apparently inexplicable, of a form of madness we can describe as evil
including perhaps an invisible cloud of evil that circles the Earth and lands at random in places like Iran, Beirut, Germany, Cambodia, America
but nor the element of what happens to people if you subject them, for years, to pitiless and extensive aerial attack.
Five years of bombing.
Five years of bombing. That was the thing that we contributed. That was the thing we did that we didn't need to do. And if we are looking for explanations, and we leave that bit out, we leave behind any chance of arriving at an explanation.

But we don't have to look for explanations. We can talk about the Khmer Rouge simply as a death cult. And we can talk similarly of ISIS. A fascist death cult, if we wish. There's a lot of it about. Here's Chris Riddell, a fine illustrator of children's books if a mediocre political cartoonist, calling ISIS "a murderous death cult" in a cartoon with a headline The plain truth about ISIS. (I feel guilty italicising it. You probably shouldn't italicise anything so plain.)

 I don't know if the headline belongs to the cartoonist, but murderous and death cult and even plain and truth are better terms than the. What is this the? There is no the.

But there's a lot of this particular the about. Its authorship is claimed by Michael Burleigh:
Attacks like these almost always result in the deaths of the perpetrators, for both Al Qaeda and Islamic State are 'death cults' (a term I coined).
I'd want convincing that the claim is valid, though I'd not begrudge it, since previously Professor Burleigh's only contribution to our intellectual life of which I was aware was his role as an arse-kisser to Niall Ferguson. So why not? Give him credit for the term, the main function of which is not to illuminate its subject but to assure us that all the light we need has been shone already. ISIS is a "death cult". More than that we do not need to know.

And hence we do not need to worry that we might be doing the very thing we do not need to do.

At the end of the clip above, Gray says this:
I get very confused. And Roland Joffe came to me and said "Spalding, I hope this film has taught you that morality is not a movable feast".

I get dizzy. Cause I keep seeing it moving all the time.
That's one way of looking at it - if we accept that there are ways, more than one, of looking at it. Or we can opt for certainty and the knowledge that what we're speaking of is beyond all reason, either ours or its own.
Listen, and understand. It's out there. It cannot be bargained with. It cannot be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

It's true, in a film. And that strategy works, in a film.

So let us therefore hope this is not real life. Let us hope that this is actually a film.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Fighting at a funeral

I had a fight at a funeral once. Not really a fight, just a bit of tugging and pulling. I'm not proud of it.

The funeral was my grandfather's and my antagonist was my father. I'd not seen him, save one occasion, for about thirty years. Not talked to him either, save that same occasion. But this was his father's funeral, or rather, the reception at the Legion afterwards. I was avoiding him, he didn't like it and finally he came up to me and said something that he shouldn't. He walked away, I walked after him and pulled him round and said something back I probably shouldn't have either.

I couldn't tell you exactly what - and it doesn't matter what. I could tell you what I think of him: I could tell you he's a louse, and why. But I can't really do that, having told you I was fighting at a funeral. I'm already in the wrong. I'm a louse.

Because you can't fight at a funeral.

I used to think that what you thought, and what you said, was the most important thing about you. I'm built that way, or I turned out that way. It's a view that probably appeals most to the opinionated - and that's how I am. But it's not a stupid view. Ideas have consequences. What you think about other people, how you think they should be treated, has consequences for those other people. A political opinion is not always a private thing in the sense that a preference for pop rather than classical, for league rather than union, for belt rather than braces is. It needs to be defended. Which is to say, from time to time somebody has to challenge it.

But there are times, and there are challenges, and there are ways and means of making them.

The argument about Paris started as soon as Paris happened. I don't blame anybody in paeticular for that. Nobody started it. The arguments are there in front of us whether we choose to make them personally or not. It's an argument we've been having for the last twelve years or so at any rate, apologists on one side and warmongers on the other. You can't avoid it. You can't go on the internet and avoid it.

But you don't have to raise your voice about it. Because raising your voice is fighting. And you can't be fighting at a funeral.

Now nothing I say about Paris matters. And I don't really have any business liking anything about Paris or anything relating to the massacres in Paris. But in so far as "like" is the proper word - and this is all about words, and whether they are properly expressed - I did like the passage here:
the command to not politicise means to not make someone’s death about something else: it's not about the issue you’ve always cared about; it’s not about you.
You can say things, You can look for contexts and you can disagree with other people's contexts. If you want to say that the meaning of murder isn't simply murder, you have to say so and you have to be allowed to say so. But the meaning of murder is death, and death is a time for proper words, spoken in a proper tone. We understand that. We understand the seriousness and sacredness of death. It's why we have funerals, and why we do not just speak and behave and dress just as we please at a funeral: because it isn't about us. And it's why we do not fight at funerals.

Because death is about the people who have died. It's about the people who have lost them. But it's not about you. It's not about your quarrels. If you make death about your quarrels, you insult the dead, regardless of what those quarrels are and regardless of whether or not you are in the right. It doesn't always matter if you're in the right.

Of course if somebody says something that you think is out of order, you can say so. Once. You can do it once, and then you're on the record. Exchange of views. It involves a certain degree - not too much - of etiquette. You don't have to respect your adversary but you have to respect the people who hear you and the situation in which you are speaking.

After that, it's a fight. After that, what you're trying to do is give someone a chasing. And that's a process that is always about you. You, the righteous one. You, the issuer of condemnations. You, the righter of wrongs. You, the crusader.

So while it's perfectly in order to say that Stop The War sent a stupid, idiotic tweet, you don't go chasing after them, after they've withdrawn it, so you can shout about it. That's just carrying on the fight you were already having. And that's fighting at a funeral. That's making it about you.

And while it's perfectly in order to say that John Rentoul issued a petty, nasty tweet, you don't go chasing after him, after he's apologised, to shout about it. That's just carrying on the fight you were already having. And that, too, is fighting at a funeral.
Dr Borkenau has performed a feat which is very difficult at this stage for anyone who knows what is going on in Spain; he has written a book about the Spanish war without losing his temper.
We have been losing our tempers for a dozen years now. And that has been a dozen years of funerals.

I'm not even-handed, in my outlook, in my opinions, between the people who do not want to pursue war and people who think that it's the best course. One of these sets of people frightens me and the other - usually - does not. I'm definitely on one side of the argument. But I'm even more against having that argument, in the form of an argument, and using the funeral parlour as the background.

We are talking about death. And we're probably talking about much more death. You do not raise your voice where people have died. We've had enough of raised voices in plain sight of death. We've had enough of voices that are always raised. This is an argument that needs to stop being a fight.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The struggle of forgetting against memory

War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense.

- Randolph Bourne
I remember the first time I watched the poppy ceremony. I was still at school, although off sick that day, or reckoning I was, and hence in front of the television in the morning when the ceremony was shown. I'm guessing it was 1982, since that was the year of the Falklands War, which along with the anti-nuclear sentiment of the time had made me a very anti-militarist teenager.

So when petals fell from the ceiling of Westminster Abbey, each single petal of the avalanche representing a life lost in the First World War, what I saw was not just the loss of life it symbolised, but the people on whom the leaves were falling. The great and good, the holders of power, the makers of decisions, the people in whose interests, as I saw it then, were responsible for all the death among which they were seated. I see it much the same way now.

One reads an image in one's own way, not always the way in which it is intended, and I read it as a scene covered in blood. I say the first time but I'm not sure that I've seen the ceremony since. Nor have I been able to wear a poppy. I don't think I've ever worn once since, although I wouldn't sign my name against that claim. But basically, I don't wear a poppy. It's something I don't do.

I've never talked about it much, because I've never been asked about it much. It's not something that I've asked other people not to do: it's something I don't do myself, just as I don't go to McDonald's and I don't send Xmas cards. Matter of fact I've probably had more conversations about Xmas cards than I have had about poppies.

But then again I emigrated nearly ten years ago. I don't know that I've been in Britain, in November, for a decade. I'm glad about this, because I don't want to have arguments about poppies, or be put on the spot because I do not wear one. From this distance - perhaps from the viewpoint of mostly viewing my home country through a screen, it often seems that not wearing a poppy is no longer a private matter. It is a choice that you have to defend, one that you need to justify to others. It is a suspect political act.

Well, the internet magnifies what is often very small, and people are not always such arses to you in person, but the militarism that has overtaken Britain over the course of that last decade isn't such a small thing. Militarism in the sense of an instinctive and perpetual keenness to engage in war and an equal keenness the motives of people whose instinct is the opposite. But the kind of militarism, too, which loves soldiers, which venerates mlitary uniforms and the people wearing them.

My own football team started holding a Military Day. Why? What has that to do with anything? What are uniforms and soldiers to do with watching yellow-shirted players trying to kick a ball into a net? It says
the club fully supports the work that our military personnel do around the world
which is very far from my opinion, but why does it come into it either way? Is this normal, nowadays? Have I been away so long? Did they do this back in the days of the Falklands War? They didn't, of course. But war was not so normal then.

I didn't miss a home game at that club for more than ten years. I think I'd probably miss these ones. Or maybe just stop going altogether.

Still, it's a small thing, to miss a football game, even if I didn't always think so. Worse things happen in war. And I am not there any more, and places, countries and football clubs all change in your absence. I do not have to worry about poppies in November. In Spain I can look at poppies without any associations that I didn't get from Monet. They do not stand for anything. I am not obliged to have an opinion.

Poppies don't stand for remembrance here. Matter of fact, nothing stands for remembrance. In Spain, the rule is not remembrance, but forgetting. More than the rule, the law. And more than to forget, but to be forbidden to find out what you have never known. The location of the bodies of your family, the place they died, the names of the people who ordered they be killed. The denial of funds to find and investigate mass graves. The refusal to discuss the country's recent history. The silence about guilt. In Spain, uniquely in Europe and illegally in international law, crimes against humanity committed in that very country may not be legally redressed.

It is the opposite, but the same. It says, as does the poppy bullying: this is done and settled, this is the account of history that you must accept. For sure, the consequences are different. To be denied the knowledge that you seek is not to be hounded or harrassed, though which is worse depends on what it is you need to know. But either way the effect, the deliberate effect, is to prevent the asking of questions that people need to ask. And either way the beneficiaries are the partisans of war and uniforms and the sort of people who make it their business to hound their fellow-citizens.

There are reasons. Reasons for forgetting what people wish had never happened, as there are reasons for remembering what should never have taken place. But you see things in your own way and you remember them the same. What I remember is seeing the poppy ceremony and hating it. I read the image in my own way. I read the way that it is used. And I hate it.