At the End of the Day

It’s going to be what Americans call ‘a grab bag’ tonight: a mixture of the eclectic, the canine and the esoteric*: not much discipline, hopefully some laughs.

*We had a client at Bates Advertising once who used to pronounce this word ‘e-zottrick’, as if it might be the digital form of a game otherwise known as Zottrick. You may also have noticed that most young persons (ie, under 40) pronounce the word digital as d’jtoo. This is in the same vein as characters in Eastenders, who pronounce ‘Phil’ (as in Phil Mitchell) ‘Foo’. If Phil’s wife – and Foo’s had quite a few – is being ‘a silly cow’, then received Eastenders pronunciation is “Foo’s missuziza silly car”. As Phil also has/had a car repair business under the local railway arches, you never know in this soap whether he is repairing a car or taking a spanner to his wife. We must all be thankful it isn’t  a radio programme.

Talking of wives, I’m juicing a lot of fresh fruit and veg for Mrs Slog at the moment, as part of a bid to rebuild her mysteriously attacked immune system. I went to various websites for advice about juicing oranges, and as is often the way with health Nazis, all such sites said one had to absolutely double-dog on pain of death juice the oranges with the peel still on otherwise one loses 75% of the Vitamin C.

What they don’t tell you is that orange juice including the peel tastes like a bowl of hangover urine mixed with sulphuric acid. Anyway, the resultant residue is sitting in the fridge at the moment. I keep returning to it, hoping it might become palateable. If anything, it tastes more foul each time I go there.

I’ve started hand-stripping our youngest Norfolk terrier Coco. Before people run away with the idea that I’m some kind of bestial sex freak, I should explain that this means pulling out black puppy-hairs one by one. If you know what you’re doing it shouldn’t hurt the animal at all, but I don’t – so I’d imagine it’s causing Coco a fair amount of trauma. The other clue as to her feelings on the matter is that, as of three days ago, she runs off whenever I get within three yards of her. The only exception to this general rule is when I say “Walk”, “Breakfast”, or “Supper”.

But that’s the way it is with terriers. And the other way with terriers is that there is no honour among thieves. Because our eldest Dog Foxie eats with a venomous greed (and speed) she often can’t finish the bowl, and then wanders off somewhere close by to vomit. Our middle dog Tiggy thus creeps over to her bowl, wolfs the rest of her food, and then stands guard by Foxie, waiting for the throwing up thing. Then she eats that too. Waste not want not, and all that.

Take away the anthropomorphic nonsense, and dogs emerge as pretty awful creatures. But their behaviour offers a lesson for us all. Like us, they are pack animals existing on cooperation to bring down prey, followed by competition as to who gets the most and the best bits. It is an immutable law of nature, and no species – no matter how clever it thinks itself – can meddle with it and survive.

Since my wife’s illness, I’ve been rethinking some of the philosophy behind the concept of individual will. I have never bought into the idea that social environment and alienation alone can lead to criminal and/or abusive behaviour. To be precise, I did think that way when I was about seventeen, and everything was the Tories’ fault (always pronounced Toe-rees these days I note) but it came as something of a relief as I matured to realise that most ‘successful’ politicians are to blame for pretty much everything, be they LibDems, Communists or whatever George Galloway is this week.

Funnily enough, I can remember exactly when I dropped my commitment to social conditioning as the sole explanation of anything. I was having my daily political rowaged about sixteen with Dad , and he said that in his slum-street, one kid had gone on to be hanged, two were drunks, three were in and out of jail, one was a doctor, and him – a cloth merchant. All of them had loving mothers, all of them were poor – but some went bad, and others didn’t.

His point was that there is such a thing as individual will, and we are all ultimately responsible for what happens. I do believe that he was largely right, although I also think that paternal example and inspiring teachers can make a huge difference – as can the right priest or the right religious influence.

But what this latest episode has made me realise is that we are all at the mercy of chemicals. If they change without warning, if one is born with the wiring to spark a deadly potion, if your head gets smashed in as a result of some accident or attack, or if you get hit by an inexplicable virus, there isn’t a whole helluva lot you can do about it. It is pointless saying to a clinically depressed person, “Cheer up”. And it is equally pointless saying to a psychopath, “Be good from now on”. Personality change following accidental or medical trauma gives the lie to the idea that we all have control over our own actions all of the time.

What both intrigues and frightens me is that, in the brave new world which is now without question well on its way here, it is going to become a routine matter at the foetus stage to screen out anti-social, life-threatening, psychopathic and inherited genetic faults. Once this is achieved, there will then be no excuse at all for crime, abusive behaviour, and setting fire to the local department store. Except that what might well also happen is that all rebellious baby-genes get thrown out with the sociopathic bathwater. Then what you have is a world full of unthinking, obedient drones. Somewhere in the deep recesses of Newscorp, or perhaps a Chinese weapons development facility, or maybe even in the back-room lab of a hard-Left back bencher and neurology geek, somebody right now is thinking about, and experimenting to find out, how this might be achieved.

And quarter-finally, it’s half-time in England’s euros game against Italy. For me, this is by far England’s best performance to date….but the team could very easily be 4-0 down by now. In terms of attacking creativity and technical skill, the Italians are in a different class…with the exception (as always) of Rooney.

Perhaps all the Roy Hodgson fans should pay attention to this, the observation of an old bloke still able to tell mediocrity from media stardom. Trust me, it’s worth more than all the drivel being spouted by the half-time ‘gurus’ on the Beeb, one of whom who just observed, “Wull, the problem see is when we get the ball and then lose it”. He could be onto something there. (Jurgen Klinsmann, by the way, spoke more eloquently and with more commonsense insight when interviewed at the touchline. His English grammar was also far better).

G’night and G’bless. There’s an action-packed edition coming up tomorrow. Don’t miss it.