Ten Thousand Resolutions Per Minute

Having already given up smoking and drinking, I am somewhat stymied for a resolution this year. What’s a paragon of virtue to do? Well there’s one thing: I mean to get a driving license.

I can drive in theory – and did a theory test to prove it – I just haven’t since I was about twenty. I moved to the middle of town where parking is more aspiration than reality, and came to consider a rake of pints an essential part of my daily diet. A car seemed more a liability than a pleasure. Since my mother became a widow though, driving has changed again – into an irksome necessity, or so it seemed. I was deeply reluctant after all that time away. Who wouldn’t be, looking at the clogged roads of today? Yet the moment I started, I discovered that I still loved it. Even more surprising perhaps, that I could still do it.

It’s a bizarre feeling. Do you ever dream you can fly? I do, but every time it happens I think to myself “Damn – I forgot again! Why do I always forget that I can fly? I should do this all the time.” Well that’s what this was like. Getting into a car seemed like finding an old forgotten superpower. Like riding a bicycle I guess. Only, you know, a stupendously dangerous bicycle.

On the productive side, it’s given me an idea. I have been inspired to create a videogame, though I suppose a lot of the credit must go to the County Council. I will probably need a snappier title for international marketing, but for the time being I’m calling it “Death Village Corrandulla”.

Twice in the last two days I drove through Corrandulla, and the road was unbelievable. The ice seems not to have just cracked and crumbled the surface, but made it explode. There are potholes like shell craters. Getting through alive is a matter of dodging and weaving between the bastards, but inevitably – because the choice will be between this and driving into oncoming traffic – you will hit one with a mighty suspension-bending K-thunk. This is ridiculous.

But I must admit, great fun. You know maybe we went wholly the wrong way over the last decade or so with these hasty road improvements, especially when you consider that a major cause of accident and death is excessive speed. You’ll hear all sorts of reasons why people drive too fast, but the real one is this: Because they can. Give a person a fast car and an open road, nine times out of ten they’ll end up going hell for leather. Why wouldn’t you go fast? Not only is it quite enjoyable to move at speed – people pay to do it in funfairs after all – it also gets you there sooner.

So maybe we should have dug a few more potholes. And built some extra chicane bends too. And a few ramps. And a water jump. That would force people to really slow down and pay attention to the road. It would not only save lives, but also just be a hell of a lot more interesting.

And I guess I have a whole new addiction. Oh well.

It’s A White Christmas, Dammit

An end to global warming? No. Climate is what happens over centuries, this is bad weather. At least people call it that – I happen to like the snow. The chief reason I like the snow is that it is not rain. If something cold must fall from the sky during the winter months, I prefer if it’s the one that brushes off.

And there’s the fact that it’s beautiful too, that helps. I know, a lot of people hate it for solid, practical reasons. It’s dangerous – well yes, but I bet deaths and injuries will be down compared to our usual Christmas carnage. Transport is buggered it is true. A friend of mine is trapped in Paris as we speak, another in San Francisco – I’d really like it if they could make it home for Christmas. Shops are going to be insane of course. If forecasters are to be believed and the snow won’t clear until Christmas Eve, all of Connacht is going to be in town for a last-minute shopping frenzy. I urge you who actually live here to get your shopping done before then, while there are still things left to get. Loved ones are puzzled and rarely pleased by a gift-wrapped supermarket shelf.

It has been inconvenient for me. I’m trying to learn to drive right now, and obviously you can’t really practise anything much in this weather. Apart from skid control. A lot of skid control. And as I was saying the other week, if I’m out of town it’s a mile walk on a Teflon pan to get to the bus. There still seems to be little sign of gritting from the County Council. I don’t say no sign – there is a light scattering of rock bits on the road just outside, at a density of maybe two gravicular particles per square footfall. Looks like they’re trying to make their precious dirt supplies last through the winter, but I’m not entirely sure what good so little actually does. I had to get outdoors early this morning to take delivery of a Christmas present – the house is so well hidden that you have to walk down to the road if you don’t want couriers to get lost. (Note to online retailers: I will buy from the one of you who clearly says “Will deliver by genuine actual post”.) He called for directions at 7.55. I had been asleep less than four hours at that point, so I wasn’t too clear at first about where he was – or indeed, where I was – but it transpired that he was just two miles away. He said he’d call back when he was close. He did. Half an hour later.

But wouldn’t it be good if this became our regular winter weather for a while? Yes I’m serious. It could be lovely – if we actually planned for it. If we could arrange not to need to fly the week before Christmas, if we actually could get our shopping done and supplies in. If the weather enforced on us that break from our hectic and ill-considered lives that we never seem to find time to take. We could have some, you know, Peace. On Earth.

Wikileaks Is Innocent

Some people dismiss the allegations against Julian Assange as trivial. I find that hard to stomach. Making someone do something sexual that they don’t want to do is never trivial. The idea that he is wanted over a breaking condom exists only in the minds of commentators who have waded too deep into rhetoric.

On the other hand, we should be clear that he has not been charged with rape. He has not been charged, in fact, with anything. He was wanted for questioning. There is some confusion about what this is in relation to, but this is partly because Swedish law doesn’t map neatly onto ours, partly because it is not so forthcoming with details of sexual crime allegations.

This has led to confusion and unfortunate speculation, because while on one hand it is pretty clear that the allegations do not amount to rape in Swedish law, on the other it seems that rape in Swedish law is defined exclusively as sexual assault with violence. If rumours are to be believed – and I should emphasise the ‘if’ – the main allegation concerns him continuing to have sex even though he knew a condom had broken. To my mind, yes, that is morally a form of rape. A lesser form perhaps than sex obtained by threats or by drugging someone or taking advantage of their being too drunk to know what they are doing, but unquestionably a case of making someone do something sexual that they didn’t want to do.

Whether it is something you could ever conceivably get a criminal conviction for, that is another question. So it’s true that some circumstances of this investigation look peculiar. But if the Swedish authorities seem to be pursuing him with an unusual level of diligence, one can hope this is because it’s unusual to have such allegations made against someone so in the public eye.

One must hope that.

Because whatever you think of the decisions Wikileaks has made about what to release to the media, it must be remembered that it does nothing illegal itself. If anyone is committing any crime – and again, that is another very big if and another difficult moral question – it is the insiders who leaked the material. Oh, and any American who reads it even after it’s been published – technically that is illegal. So the US Air Force has blocked the website of The Guardian, Columbia students have been warned that discussing the information could damage their careers. It seems to me that if Wikileaks is bringing about this sort of imbecilic institutional reaction, it is definitely doing something right.

Wikileaks is innocent. But I hope that Assange is guilty, or at least under well-founded suspicion. Why? Because the alternative – that sexual crime charges have been falsified against him in order to suppress a threat to US interests – would mean that Western civilisation is on fire and what’s left is not worth pissing on to save.