We joined the local hunter’s club for their annual feast yesterday. For six hours we dined on fresh produce, venison, local cheese, cakes and wine in company with around 100 local hunters and their families. A delightful, friendly, fun day, with much warm hospitality and good humour.
The meal was conducted at a leisurely pace, with breaks for the odd unexpected fanfare from a little chap with a genuine French hunting horn, a surprisingly competitive tombola – after which widespread swapping of prizes took place – loud snatches of song and lots of franglais with our nearest diners. Spontaneous outbreaks of applause rippled around the large dining area: I have no idea what prompted these but we joined in merrily, clapped and cheered along, presumably to thank the organisers, the chefs, the horn-player, the singers, the waiters-on and the clearers-away. And, of course, the bold hunters for providing the huge amount of game in the first place. I am no gourmet and have not previously eaten much venison, but theirs was succulent and wine-soaked and very delicious. Even the Bambi jokes didn’t spoil my enjoyment.
We’ve done it. We’ve joined the hipsters. Good joke when you think we were there the first time round. I’m sick of feeling envious of these Millennials coming into the pub with their brand new vinyl, which they then flash about and pop off to their mates on Instagram. Why shouldn’t us wrinklies join in?
So we signed up for it. After a quick peruse online, we went off to the city and spent a day browsing the Hi-Fi shops. You can spend a fortune on a deck, which is what they call them now, and I felt like the proverbial hick listening to the sales spiel about interfaces and negative bluetooth capacity. I don’t even know what bluetooth means; I ignore it on my digital radio and it doesn’t seem to make any difference to Ken Bruce. But my partner understands the mechanics, in fact he seems to enjoy the techie stuff at least as much as the music, so that’s all right then.
We ordered one and it arrived a couple days later. After he’d spent several hours trying to get it to work with our complicated home cinema equipment, the penny dropped and we could listen to our original old scratchy LPs; I refuse to call them vinyl, it makes me think of toilet paper, though I think that was Izal, remember scratchy Izal, back in the dark ages? Some things are best left behind.
So now I’m seeing and hearing a whole new side of my tech-lovin’ partner. I knew he’d been a bit of a punk, back in the day, but turns out he’s also a closet Black Sabbath fan, who knew? Makes my Gilbert O’Sullivan crush a bit tame, don’t you think? Still, I haven’t dug out Tull’s Thick as a Brick yet, that’ll show him.
Rick Parfitt …and now George Michael. What a truly shit year. My heroes and heroines have been dying with unseemly haste. I cannot count the number of greats who have departed life in this abysmal year. It’s so shocking, it’s creepy.
But why this year? What has been exceptional about 2016? Since the start of the third millennium events have been turning darker, we believe. People are afraid of the future, it’s hard to be optimistic. But, hold on, have we not been here before? I’m not old enough to remember the Great War, or even WW2, but I do most vividly remember the Vietnam war, the first television war. I lived through the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which lasted thirty years and, to some extent, continue to this day. Those were frightening dark times, too. People died before they had lived. The difference today is that news, any news, is instant. Social media affords us the opportunity to be informed, 24/7; to live the news more or less as it happens. When bombs exploded at night in 70s Belfast we knew only that they were close or not so close, big or not so big. The news of where and who had been attacked was made public the following day, often not even then. Each celebrity death this year has been a body blow, these were the performers I shared my childhood with, shared my teenage years with, became an adult with. And now, as these lives end, and we learn of them immediately and in some detail, they feel so personal, they genuinely hurt.
Is this immediacy a good thing? I think it probably is. People are informed, they can show they care, if they do. They can respond to sad or bad news within minutes, seconds, it seems. And there is no excuse, in 2016, for not knowing. Caring is a different matter. The residents of Syria may not benefit from our social media obsession. They know what is happening to their city and its citizens, mainly through personal experience. They know that we in the West must also be aware of their agony. But, lacking any response, they must wonder, do we care?
It would be awesome if times really were changin’. The unsurpassable Robert Zimmerman has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize – for literature. Not for services to world peace or to education, both of which would be perfectly justifiable. But for literature. As a forever Dylan fan I am well acquainted with the lyrics of many of his songs and, yes, I do own some of the albums, though not all. And indeed, world class they are. But can even Dylan’s mighty and sustained oeuvre change the world?
Even as I write these words, the forces of darkness continue to oppress the citizens of the world. In fact, only this week, the phrase ‘Citizen of the World’, has been put forward in a speech by Theresa May, the UK’s brand spanking new PM, as a negative label. If you are a citizen of the world, she blurted, in that hurried breathless voice she is currently adopting, then you are a citizen of nowhere. Go figure. The good news is that she has been challenged on this view by people everywhere, on social media, in newspaper editorials, on UK television political programmes, like Question Time, This Week and The Daily Politics. Tweeters are adding Citizen of the World to their profiles, proud to describe themselves as such. But if Mrs May and her Brexit ministers have their way, the UK will soon belong to a shrinking nation, divorced from friends and neighbours in Europe, even more detested by the Irish and Scots. To quote from another famous ‘6os hit song, Where Have all the Flowers Gone? written after the Great War, I ask our foolish, short-sighted politicians, When Will They Ever Learn?