Monday, 21 August 2017


Among the famous things Frank Zappa said and did, there was his comment about Communism, quoted somewhere else on this blog, but always worth a rerun - "Communism doesn't work, because people like to own stuff." I was vividly reminded of this on the weekend, when a huge festival of long distance riding set up in the park behind my house.

Having visited Mongolia at an impressionable age, I have never forgotten the horsemen of that country. Their skill and courage was astonishing. Their equipment was virtually non-existent. What they used as a bridle, we would have thought was really just a bit of rope with knots.

But here in Brussels, if you are a horse fancier, that will not do at all, judging by what I saw on Saturday and Sunday. To ride long distance, you need heaps and heaps and heaps and heaps of stuff - bridles, martingales, brightly coloured saddles, under saddle blankets, over saddle blankets, special farriers with special things to put on your horse's very special hooves. Bits, tail guards, rain proof reins, stirrups of every description, grooming brushes, mane combs, hoof picks, ear protectors, (for the horse's ears, not yours, I should point out).

Stuff, it's the fabric of our economy. I remember now the people we saw in Norfolk once, going for the shortest, flattest, most non-exertive (is that a word) of walks, but kitted out in weatherproof clothing and high tech boots, nordic sticks at the ready, maps in plastic folders hanging from lanyards round their necks. It took them more time to get ready than to complete the actual stroll they were getting ready for.

Stuff, gleaming at you from shops and stalls and in huge department stores. For me, the temptation is always gadgets - MP3 players, then iPhones, now blue tooth earphones. I don't really need any of it, but acquiring it all is such a thrill. I wonder what the impulse originates from, what primitive urge we are fulfilling.

As we are soon to move house, which means packing up all the stuff we've accumulated, perhaps stuff is rather more on my mind than it might be.

But, swerving off onto another tack - or rather going back to the beginning and the mention of Communism, has anyone noticed the thing that links Communism and Islam? In both cases, whenever things go wrong, it is claimed that it isn't the fundamental doctrine that is the problem, it is the interpretation and the way it is put into practice. In both cases, I find myself beginning to wonder whether it matters whether the fundamental doctrine is actually marvellous, when so terribly often the interpretation leads to such disaster. It seems to me that a set of ideas that is best when not in contact with humanity in all its devious wickedness is a set of ideas that it might be good to leave well alone.


  1. In Poor Richard's Almanac Franklin quotes the proverb that "Three removes is as bad as a fire." By the time I encountered this expression thirty years ago, it had turned into "Three moves is as good as a fire." Now, I think that "as good as" implies equivalence rather than approval, but it does seem that the ready availability of stuff makes us less upset at the possibility of losing it.

    1. the odd thing is though that it is actually much harder to replace stuff when you lose it these days as you go back and find they don't make it any more. There was a time in the late 70s when you bought something, you lost it, you went back and got the same thing. Then it all changed so now you buy something, you lose it, you go back to the shop and find they don't make it any more; they claim they make something better but actually it is just more complicated and you really haven't the energy to try to learn how to use it so you give up and go home and weep. Or is that just me?

  2. That's why I'm all in favour of 'muddling through' and having an unwritten constitution. As soon as a set of beliefs are codified they seem to become a sacred cow and if they don't work (because they're an anachronism), we're told that it is we who have failed these perfect, immutable laws.

    I place more faith in Orwell's 'common decency' than the empty rhetoric of ideologies.

    1. I wouldn't tell anyone else this but I think the problem is that we have lost any faint sense of Christian values - thus, greed can go unchecked, without any thought for the good of others. Right, I'm off out to go door knocking for the brethren.