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Let Them Eat Merde

ON TUESDAY, the day before Sri Lanka’s president announced his country’s economic collapse, the same day British railway workers started their first national strike in 30 years (over a lower-than-inflation pay rise), British PM Boris Johnson began encouraging Tory MPs to support eliminating caps on City executive pay and bonuses.

To encourage the world’s ultra-rich to create zero-hour, minimum wage McJobs in London.
Even as they watched the rest of the world teeter on the edge – and Sri Lanka actually topple over it – the world’s richest people were poised to have their conspicuous consumption underwritten by the people most likely to get consumption.
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Son of a Gun

FATHER’S DAY falls this Sunday but I’ve already had the best possible rise out of it: for five days last week, both my adult children were at home. My son returned to London last Thursday, my daughter will at month-end. But every second with them both was magical. We are all on the long and winding road that leads to we all know where (even if some us hope and pray it ends somewhere else). I am farther down the road and love to turn and watch them run, dance and leap down it.

But I will chinks out my remaining time in baby steps.
My own father taught me an incredible – it is the right word – amount when he was alive; but he taught me even more in death. In the early Nineties, my father’s last years (he died on 4 April 1993), I often turned up from London myself on my parents’ doorstep. And they’d just let me into my old room.
When Vodka Hitler took Europe a hundred years into the past on 24 February, I was staying with my mother, as part of the extended celebration of her 86th birthday. She’s always been as excellent as I have been hopeless with numbers and, when I said, “This last happened in 1939” she replied, at once, “I was three!” World War II ended the year she turned nine (though that’s my arithmetic, and she might well have been 13).
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William, BC and Boris

READING HAS SAVED my life all my life. Today, it might be a book like Andre Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs that encourages me to keep repositioning nose to grindstone but, since before I was ten, books have always realigned me. I can chart my development as a reader (and, ergo, writer) by the books that blew me away (and the rough age I was when I read them):

The Call of the Wild (11). Kidnapped (12). Great Expectations (13). Miguel Street (14). Animal Farm, 1984, A House for Mr Biswas, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (15). Catch-22, Don’t Stop the Carnival (16). Slaughterhouse Five, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird (17). The Lonely Londoners, Lord of the Flies, Lolita, A Clockwork Orange, L'Etranger (18). Things Fall Apart, Gulliver’s Travels, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Brighton Rock (19). Crime and Punishment, The Wide Sargasso Sea, Moby Dick, The Dragon Can’t Dance (20). Midnight’s Children, Les Miserables, Of Mice and Men, Heart of Darkness (21). The Red and the Black, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Something Happened, Anna Karenina, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (22).

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64 with a bullet

YESTERDAY WAS was my birthday and all I’ve got to show for myself after six decades of this cosmic joke called life is the same receding hairline, expanding waistline, infrequent byline and recurring firetrucking punch line: ten times before today, in “birthday” columns, I’ve repeated the same hairline/ waistline/ byline joke I first made when I was 30 with a Bullet.

After turning 30 “in the papers” in 1988, I decided to limit birthday columns to five-year intervals and “significant” birthdays but, when I turned 55 in 2013, I realised every firetrucking birthday had become hugely significant. At least to me. Every birthday increases the chances I won’t be here for the next one. Until my elder brother and I, no Pires male had lived past the age of 62 in five generations. I hope we’re all here to see my younger brother join the 63 club in 2025.
But surely I’ve learned something from it all? Or at least can pretend to have? Here, then are 64 pieces of indisputable wisdom, one for each year I’ve defied Death and the odds. Following these commandments may not get you to Heaven but you’ll certainly have a Hell of a time. The first and last ones are always the same (and some in-between, if either timeless or still timely).
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