World History And Other Things

Today’s blog is going to be a long one, and a ‘bitty’ one. I’ve a lot of things running round in my head, so I’ll just tackle them one by one and see what emerges.

First off, it was rather disconcerting to read in London’s Evening Standard that the Chinese Navy have been told by President Hu Jintao to “prepare for war” over the oil and gas rich South China Sea. The USA, of course, have done their part in stirring things up by posting 2500 marines to a new base in Darwin, northern Australia, at the same time as announcing a £3.5 billion upgrade of Taiwan’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets.

Following on from recent threats by China to start World War Three if the USA acts against Iran and (separately) Pakistan, then you do begin to wonder just what the hell is going on. What we do know for certain is that 2012 will see a change at the top of the Chinese Communist party with a whole new generation of (younger) leaders coming to power, and maybe that’s why. Maybe all of this is happening because the hardliners in the CCP don’t like the idea of a softer, more westernized politburo. They certainly seem to be the ones who are doing all of the chest-beating. Looking at it from a distance, I sense that something has changed in the last month or so. China’s willingness to underwrite the West is just one thing, and even if it hurts their own economy, they seem suddenly to have changed from our friendly uncle – willing to bail us all out – to a wicked stepfather. Whatever the reasons, it’s all rather grim, and – to my mind – makes all of this hoo hah about the Euro crisis just so much hot air.

Speaking of which… I spent the whole of yesterday doing a painting job and listening to local radio station LBC, which is an all talk station. Listening to that, one might have thought that David Cameron’s refusal to join the EU’s proposed new treaty was a vital turning point in world history. It was all very very portentous and the shadow of Bismarck seemed to linger over everything. Personally, however, I don’t think Cameron’s decisions will make that much difference. We’ll still trade with France and Germany, and all it will really mean is that we won’t – in the long term – get sucked into the federal “Eurostate” that the Germans would love us all to be part of (and which they’ve been trying to create by various means for the past two hundred years). Whilst a United States of Europe might suit the mitteleuropean states, it would never suit us. We’re an arrogant bunch of individuals here in the UK, and the thought of European beaurocrats having even more control over our lives than they currently do, appalls and horrifies us. The Nanny State we have is bad enough as it is, but to place that in the hands of “foreigners”!!!

I’m, of course, being just a little playful in saying so. As I’ve said elsewhere, we’re still getting used to not being top dogs, to having lost an empire and yet survived two major world wars with our democratic institutions intact. As a nation, we Brits see a degree of irony in the French (our defeated allies in WW2) and Germany (our defeated enemies in said same war) being the chief shapers and movers in all of this.

There is the counter argument, of course, that had we said yes, and sat down at the bargaining table with the other 27 nations in the EU, then we might have been able to exercise some influence over the shape and nature of future Europe, and that that would have been a good thing, maybe even a great thing… only I don’t really believe that. Had we said yes, and sat down to negotiate, what would really have happened? Personally, I’d  predict the following - endless arguments,  disagreements and frustrated bickering, followed by walk outs and angry shouting matches. Because Germany and France would try and impose their joint will on us, and we…?

Well, ask the man in the street and he’ll tell you. We’d tell them to fuck off.

Meanwhile, in America…

Yes, I’m back talking about our old friend Rick Perry, whose ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time is quite amazing. Recently he not only managed to forget just how many Supreme Court judges there are, but totally mispronounced the name of one of them – Judge Sotomayor. I’m beginning to wonder just how he could mess up so spectacularly when he had so much going for him, but word is that if he doesn’t get a good poll showing in South Carolina on the 21stJanuary, then he might be out of the race for the Republican nomination, even though he’s raised more campaign money than any of his rivals. They’re calling it his “Alamo”, and they could be right.

The media are currently calling Perry’s support “Rick Perry’s Ship of Fools”, but it’s still possible that the American voter will begin to warm to his not inconsiderable charm – seeing him, like Regan before him, as “the guy” – and viewing his gaffes as a by-product of his bluff honesty. Hey, you can see how they’ll spin it. How they’ll make those gaffes a positive – a sign of just how unrehearsed he is, and thus so different from the other slick willies (Romney and Gingrich) running against him. So watch this space and see if the drowned man can come up for another breath of air.

And yes, I’m still painting. Working with my old friend Brendon, getting a flat refurbished and ready for renting in the New Year. In fact, I’ve got another couple of days work next week before I return to this desk and begin the rewrite of LAST QUARTERS, the new finale to Chung Kuo. What I’m aiming to do, before Christmas descends in its full intensity, is sketch the thing out, then write it in one heated draft in the New Year. To say it’ll have changed from the old version is to understate it. If it comes out anything like I envisage it, then it’ll be a small novel in itself. And what’s in it? No… you’re going to have to wait to learn that. But I bet you this. I bet you I get my ending out before George R. R. presents his.

Sue and I have been indulging ourselves in box sets again. First off, over the last week or so, has been The Killing, the dark Danish twenty-parter which, to my mind, has echoes of Twin Peaks and Murder One. It’s good. In fact, it’s very good. But – with only one final episode to watch, tonight – I’d also say that it cheats the viewer time and again. Two or three false trails is fine, but ten, a dozen? That said, I can’t wait to watch each new episode.

Arsenal are at home today – kick off at three – to Everton, who they ought to mop up without too much trouble. The club is 125 years old, and yesterday three bronze statues were revealed outside the ground, celebrating three of the greatest figures in Arsenal’s history. I was rather touched when Thierry Henry – our greatest ever goal scorer - unveiled his and was so moved by the gesture that he cried. What a great world-class player he was.

Oh, and I’ve a new editor for Chung Kuo, starting at the end of January. Her name is Sara O’Keefe and she was senior editor at Orion before she joined Corvus. They’ll be appointing her assistant soon, and I’ll let you know the news when that happens, but I’m looking forward to working with Sara.

Which brings us to… the sfbooks Book of The Year award, which you can vote for at the sfbooks site right now. SON OF HEAVEN has been nominated and is out front with 44 votes so far, with the final count being made in January. I’ve never been up for an award before, so it’s kind of exciting. Will we, won’t we win it?

And, finally…. It’s almost Christmas in the Oudot household. Sue and Francesca are right now out shopping in the West End for the last few bits and pieces, and when Georgia comes home next Saturday we’ll be decorating the tree and playing the Greatest Christmas Hits CD as we do so. It’s a yearly ritual and marks the shutdown of any real work, though I’m going to try to get back to a more regular blogging schedule. But, as ever, we’ll have a houseful of Oudots (Sue’s brothers and sister, and various nieces and nephews), which is always fun.

And me? I’ll be sitting in the corner with a drink, watching it all happen.

Which reminds me… keep an eye out for my Amazon 12 Days Of Christmas blog, “China And Christmas”, which should be on their site pretty soon now.


David Wingrove      Saturday 10thDecember 2011