Tuesday 8 April 2008

A terrible beauty, really

I think the people at CNN probably just guess what the weather might be like in Europe. Today was meant to be 31 degrees celsius – freakishly hot for this time of year – and southern Portugal glowed red on their map. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even switch on the TV this morning to see if they were apologising for their mistake because the severity of the (ongoing) storm knackered the reception. 

And one time, whilst pinned down by a stilling heat in a Frankfurt hotel, gasping with self-pity, I barely even had the strength to shout down their confident assertion that Frankfurt – they named the place specifically – was experiencing temperatures in the low-twenties and very occasional showers. No We Were Not, CNN - we were dying. Dying. 

I had to phone my girlfriend back in Scotland for a weather forecast, but she just wondered why I didn’t watch a German channel and find out for myself. Good point. They often show pornography in German hotels, though, and you get a two minute free sample before you have to start paying for the experience. So, in other words, the meter starts immediately and your habits are tracked, lest you try to watch more than the allocated two minutes. Fair enough, I suppose.

But I didn’t want the woman at the desk thinking I was the kind of person who would consider watching pornography in the middle of a murderous heatwave, even though this was exactly the sort of person I was wanting to be. I imagine there is something to be said for idle self-harm and desolate bliss in a swelteringly anonymous hotel room.

Be that as it may, however, I was too unsure of the channels to risk a change, so I was stuck with CNN, which seems to come on automatically just as soon as you step into any hotel room anywhere, ever. 

I think maybe CNN shot that famous film of a cruise missile going down a street in the first Gulf war? I could be wrong, I suppose, but in my mind it turns left at traffic lights before slamming into some ministry or other. All good stuff, of course, and enough to make most men groan with pleasure. This, in any event, is certainly the kind of porn we can watch whilst staying on good eye-contact terms with hotel receptionists.

Deathlicious as that footage was, however, maybe it played a part in dulling people’s sense of how wars are actually fought and won? I don’t know, but a growing belief seems to have developed that gadgetry alone can defeat an enemy, leading to a certain outrage - a horror, really - when soldiers are actually called upon to fight and abysmally die. The justness or otherwise of any given cause is then reduced to a counting of the dead. I suppose we should be grateful that live footage wasn’t relayed home from the Somme.

And, come to think of it, I wonder how the children of today will view the possibility of sacrifice tomorrow? God, what a thought. Perhaps with knee-pads and cycle-helmets and a stash of inhalers they might be persuaded to fight a tyranny. The wicked enemy, though, will only need to lob some peanuts or cheese into their allergy-ridden trenches and the game will most surely be up. But as they come home defeated, wheezingly, with tiny little peanut scratches and puffy faces, we’ll tell them they made the grade. An F is not for failure, dear children of our fears, an F means you all did fine.

Man. You can’t even get peanuts on planes these days on the off-chance a child might explode. Is that fair? I can never make my mind up. Obviously, I’m not wanting a kid to cop it on a plane – messy business – but should everyone be made to alter their habits just in case? I suppose I worry about where a line might ever be drawn.

You see, that’s the problem with internet cafes - you kind of feel obliged to look busy and can end up writing any old shite. This is why I now have absolutely no idea what I’m going on about. I just wanted to mention the beautiful waves in the storm and yet seem to be talking about peanuts.

Thankfully, recent legislation means that I must now leave the computer and get myself totally drenched in a violently unforgiving Portuguese storm if I want to have a cigarette. Which I do. Phew.

Hello, incidentally.

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