Friday, June 6, 2008

Layer 50 Funerals, Fascists, Ties, Drips and Plumbers.

I don’t know anyone who gives a damn about international motorsport, or its governing body (the FIA), or the FIA’s president, a certain Max Mosely, 68 years old son of former British fascist leader and prominent Hitler supporter Oswald Mosely. Nor does anyone I know care about Bernie Ecclestone, billionaire dwarf and egomaniacal dictator of the Formula 1 Grand Prix circus.

So why bother writing about them? I find the politics of these very wealthy individuals and organisations very interesting. This Max Mosely must be some guy. As indeed must tough guy Bernie. It’s always hilarious to see Bernie, who must be 5ft 3 and in his seventies, still with his seventies haircut, strolling around a Grand Prix grid, linked arms with some fit young amazon. Go Bernie! The Hugh Hefner of racing drivers.

To paraphrase Mrs Merton, “Tell me Miss, what is it you find so attractive about billionaire Bernie?”

Ever since he was exposed in the tabloids for his enjoyment of sado-masochistic sex with groups of prostitutes dressed as Nazis, Mosely’s sanity and suitability to be the head of an international organization has been somewhat open to question. So much so that the FIA was forced to hold a vote this week as to whether he should continue as its president.

Now I can see that it may not have been easy growing up with, and living with, the thought that your dad is, or was, a prominent Hitler-loving fascist. Especially in a country that sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives and most of its national wealth in defeating Hitler and the Nazis.

And the idea that some old boy should use some of his wealth to purchase some harmless private fun/therapy in an SM dungeon isn’t so bad when you consider there’s no actual crime taking place and apparently no victims. Seems like some perfectly legitimate wealth redistribution. He may even have been very generous with his girls.

But it’s interesting that there were several F1 teams who have said very loudly that he should be put out to pasture, or be forced to resign, to spend more time with his Nazi whores, if that’s what he enjoys. The more vociferous and anti-Max of those F1 teams appear to be Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ferrari, Honda and Yamaha. So that’s the entire set of the former Axis countries, Germany, Italy and Japan - lined up against fascist nutters and dictators being in prominent posts and positions of power and authority.

I don’t see this as something ironic, and I don’t suspect there’s anything hypocritical or anti-British going on here. I do think that Germany, Italy and Japan have had to go through decades of shame and self-flagellation as a result of their fascist, militaristic and brutal past. They’ve needed to think deeply about their politics, and about political systems that transgress human rights and decent human values. And they recognise that for ethical and moral reasons no-one should associate himself with even the trappings of Nazism and fascism if they wish to retain any credibility and integrity, and be considered suitable for responsible and representative roles in society.

Even a thicko like the party-loving squaddie and ‘war on terror’ enthusiast Prince Harry now gets this particular point. But not our Max, apparently. He’s decided to brazen it out, and he’s apparently got the support of the overwhelming majority of FIA members, who voted for him to remain in post. Well - better a fascist you know, whom you like and trust, than one you don’t.

What do these people require of their leader? Probity? No. Integrity? No. Though he may well have lots of these qualities, in many ways, for all I know.

People in power, for the most part right-wing rich people, mostly require their leaders and representatives to be hard-faced, stony-hearted tough guys who know how to play hard-ball in their interests. I guess Max fits the job description, and they can’t bear to let him go.

Or maybe I’m being very unfair. Maybe he’s just a very clubbable and hospitable old boy who has lots of like-minded friends with fascist leanings, friends and associates whom he’s cultivated over the years, who are standing by him in his hour of need. Sieg Heil!


Back to synchronicity. I was listening to a news report just now about the number of men wearing ties in the US dropping to 6%. Sales of ties have apparently fallen by 50%. Those tie-wearers must be buying them by the hundred to maintain even 50% of sales, by my reckoning.

Yesterday, for the first time in months, I needed to think about ties, in order to find my black tie, to wear for a funeral. I’d forgotten where my tie collection is currently located. Literally forgotten, ever since I carried out my last domestic re-organization, all those months ago. And I’d also forgotten how many of the damned things I still have hanging around the place. I’m sure I’ll never wear more than 3 or 4 of them ever again, if that.

Time to think of 101 uses for an old tie. I reckon Max Moseley could think of a few. Or maybe I should just throw them away? But hold on. I bet there’s a new generation of youngsters coming along who will think wearing antique ties is really funky, once there have been a couple of generations who have stopped wearing them.

Maybe I’ll have a grandson one day who will appreciate grandad’s silk ties. I remember a time in the 1960’s when I was happily tie-dying and recycling my grandad’s old button-up vests! I was wearing them with pride, as shirts, thinking I looked really cool. And thinking about funerals, I must sort out my will, and put the ties into the care of a Trust.

I feel a song coming on. The Ties They Are A’Changin’. Tie Waits For No Man.


The funeral gathering was blessed with beautiful sunny, warm weather. Everyone was able to sit out in the garden and enjoy the return of the sun. It would have been very different if we’d had the previous day’s cold, dull, wet weather.

My friend’s family are all delightful people; incredibly warm, humorous, thoughtful and civilized. It’s so interesting how the actual funeral in the morning can be so full of mourning, grief and the pain of loss, but in the afternoon, when good people who rarely see one another are gathered together en masse and able to chat and enjoy one another’s company, it becomes a completely different, a completely opposite sort of gathering, full of laughter, positive energy and high spirits. Which is how a funeral ‘wake’ ought to be.

When my three cousins lost both their mother and father within months of each other a couple of years ago I made up my mind that we should try to meet up as a group as often as possible. We’ve done it a couple of times, but not often enough. I need to get back to instigating those gatherings. I really like my extended family - my many cousins, nephews, nieces, aunts and uncles. We’re all far too ‘busy’, and we live too far apart these days, but I really don’t just want to see my family together at funerals.


In the middle of the funeral gathering, in the middle of the afternoon, someone noticed there was water dripping through the kitchen ceiling. Immediately the cry went up, “Who’s in the bathroom? Who’s left the tap running?”

As it turned out, no-one was, and no-one had. There was no evidence at all of any water leaking or overflowing in the bathroom above the kitchen. Panic. What the hell was going on? Meanwhile the drip had turned into something much more sinister - a great sagging blister of water, threatening to burst and to collapse the kitchen ceiling. The kitchen had been the hub and the nerve centre of this food- and drink-focused afternoon.

The family carried out a quick audit of those present to see whether anyone was qualified to take charge of the situation. Nobody was. There was an electrician, but he didn’t exactly inspire confidence. “Call an emergency plumber!” “No - call the insurance company!” “Take all the food and drink out of the kitchen!” What to do?

In the event an elderly neighbour somehow appeared on the scene, an uninvited guest, armed with spanners, a stepladder, a sharp knife, bits of timber, etc. Everyone stood back deferentially. Thank God - someone with some practical skills and know-how.

We had journalists, educationalists, hairdressers, musicians, students, cabinet makers, professional fund-raisers, and lots of retired people representing other professions - all useless. I tried to make myself useful by emptying out a dustbin in the garden and positioning it under the leak.

Eventually the ceiling came down, of course, and the dustbin was at least useful for carrying away the debris, bit by bit. Maybe it was better that it happened when there were lots of family and friends around to share in the disaster, caused, as it turned out, by a badly-soldered pipe in the ceiling whose leakage had chosen this particular day to announce its long-term insidious effects.

As someone said, we’ll all look back in the future and say, “Remember the day of the funeral, when the ceiling fell down?” And laugh.


And finally, the boy who cried wolf . . .

It turned out that one of my friend’s nephews, who’s known to be a bit of a joker and a piss-taker, a lad with lots of wild, frizzy hair, had seen some drips coming from the ceiling the previous day, and had mentioned it to his mother . . .

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