We’re at the end of June people! This is not a drill – we are halfway through 2021!
I know right? It doesn’t feel quite right, but here we are, and what have we learned and accomplished in the first half of 2021?
But first, how does the first half of 2021 compare to the first half of 2020? Well, both years featured lockdowns – at this point last year I was furloughed, and doing what I could to occupy my time, though that wasn’t particularly easy. I churned out a book, so there’s that, and I drew some ‘art’, but honestly, 2020 felt like a struggle. 2021 brought a lockdown at the start of the year, but this time I worked, albeit in subdued circumstances with no customers allowed in the store.
To describe the scene as ‘quiet’ would be a disservice to the word quiet. It seemed pointless to be at work, but truthfully it was better than being bored at home. There were still things to do at work, even during lockdown.
Anyway, is this an historical Muse, or shall we look at the recent past?
I confess to not knowing much about Juneteenth until quite recently, but the date (the 19th of June) is significant in the history of US race relations. It’s the date in 1865 when the last Confederacy state (Texas, of course) emancipated it’s slave population – albeit under orders from Union General Gordon Granger.
In some respects, Juneteenth therefore represents the anniversary of when slavery officially came to an end in the USA, though there are always a few caveats when dealing with so many states. Nonetheless, the date has become important in America, and recently President Joe Biden declared it to be a Federal Holiday. This can only be a good thing, though there is still a lot of work to in respect of race relations (and not just in the US, there’s work to do all over the world).
Of course, some people deny racism exists, they even go as far as to deny the concept exists. I have to wonder what they feel discriminating against someone on the basis of skin colour and ethnicity should be called. And no, it’s not presumptuous to celebrate the freedom of slaves in this instance. You can acknowledge the steps taken to liberate slaves in one set of circumstances, whilst acknowledging that slavery still exists in other forms elsewhere.
We had a nice (or as my daughter says, ‘noice’) spell of hot weather for several days, culminating in a blisteringly hot day on the 16th (the date of the previous Muse). What followed was not so great. Rain became the norm, as did a drop in temperatures that served as a reminder that UK summers are fragile and fleeting. I can’t say for certain if this has impacted my hay-fever for the better or for the worse – and I’m not entirely certain I haven’t ended up with a cold during the abrupt changes of weather. Lucky me.
I’ve also ended up with a sore neck, for reasons I’m not sure about. The pain has ebbed and flowed, but relief from it has proven hard to find.
Lately my dreams have been hard to catch, I know I’ve had some dreams and they’ve been somewhat interesting, but they’re fleeting images, loitering teasingly on the edge of conscious thought, refusing to crystallise into something coherent. I can’t help but wonder if some juicy idea is hiding in my subconscious. I do recall something about a train ride on the Russian Metro, which is interesting because a couple of days later I downloaded Metro: Last Light to the Switch. Was my brain sending me subliminal messages?
My early impressions of Metro weren’t great. ‘Tap Y repeatedly to fight monster’. I tap Y and die. Great.
I also had a dream where I was on a star ship and somehow it got flooded. Weird right? Well, the ship ended up being the Discovery circa season 3 of Star Trek Discovery, and it was masquerading as a gigantic wasp-like creature. I have absolutely zero clue as to the meaning here.
I think we’re all acquainted with con artists and tricksters. We have all had calls from people claiming to be from a legit company or agency, but something gave us cause for doubt. There are plenty of subtle, skilful deceivers out there, but not all of them are clever. Some are crude, relying upon intimidation to achieve their goals.
Case in point, my step-daughter had an encounter with two such people the other day. She was in town, arranging a taxi, and noticed a damaged iPhone on a wall nearby. She didn’t give it much thought until a pair – one man one woman – came around the corner and started shouting that she’d broken his phone. They subsequently demanded her phone so they could call the police on her (as though the police would actually give a damn about a broken phone).
Now, my step-daughter is not inclined to suffer fools like this gladly. Threatening and bullying her into either A: surrendering her own phone or B: handing over cash (as if anyone carries the value of the average iPhone on their person these days) was never going to work. She stood her ground and when the pair threatened to follow her home (another intimidation tactic), she invited them to follow her… to the police station. She then invited them to follow her into the local supermarket, where she got the attention of security. At that point, the pair of feckless malcontents scarpered.
Good on her. They assumed that as a woman on her own she’d be vulnerable, and when she demonstrated she was anything but, they ran. This is typical of bullies – they prey on who they think are weak, and when confronted, they lose their nerve. The worry is that they’ll continue their little con, and if they decide to be particularly aggressive against say, an elderly person, they might get what they want. They are cowards, there really is no other way to describe them. They picked on the wrong woman!
I have to assume the constant sensation of feeling bunged up is related to hay-fever. The last week or so has been spent with itchy eyes, a full nose (ew) and plenty of sneezing. I went to the chemist to request some extra-strong medication to tackle hay-fever, and something for the congestion, and got pills that function as a 2-in-1. We’ll see if they make any impact, but I really really hope they do, because I am struggling to breathe where I’m so snotty (double ew).
Over on the Coalition site I’ve had to repeatedly deal with a miscreant who, a few weeks back, thought it would be smart to issue threats to do me harm (it’s even possible his comments represented a threat to kill, I haven’t decided). He’s a blowhard, but he’s also a racist, sexist idiot, and I finally figured out how to block him completely. Needless to say, this was quite satisfying. I’ve been carefully gathering information on him, in case he issues any further threats, be they against others or myself. That way, if I deem his comments to be more than bluster, I have the means to report him to the authorities. He lives in the US so I don’t believe I’m in any immediate danger, but it never hurts to be prepared.
This one is work-related. I have a dozen or so quotes on the system but it seems everyone is getting easy walk-in sales – ‘can I have’ is a great question from a customer, but I’m never the one who hears it! That said, I had a strong weekend, which has restored a bit of confidence.
I recently took the step of muting someone on Facebook. I don’t often take such steps, but on this occasion I felt I had no choice. Some very blatant fishing for attention and sympathy (not to mention a disregard for the feelings of their loved ones) left me exasperated. I decided against a confrontation (I doubt it would have achieved anything) and opted to keep them as a Facebook friend (lest unfriending trigger a row), but their rants will no longer appear on my feed. It’s the safest option for all concerned.
I’m not dismissive of the stuff they’ve been through, but some of the things they say are a slap in the face to the people who do care, and it’s grown tiresome.
England vs Germany
I’m not gonna lie. Once the group stages of Euro 2020 had resolved themselves England found themselves facing an historically challenging football foe – Germany. Prior to the 2nd Round clash, the stats were weighted heavily in favour of the Germans…
For Germany success and football go hand in hand. Even when it appears they’re not playing well they find a way to reach the sharp end of major tournaments. World Cup winners in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014, and European Champions in 1972, 1980 and 1996, they also reached the World Cup Final in 1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002. They reached the European Championship Final in 1976, 1992 and 2008. As former England striker once said, ‘football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win’. Well, almost.
England, in contrast, won the World Cup in 1966, reached the Semi-Finals in 1990 (only to be beaten on penalties by the Germans), reached the Semis of Euro 96 (and guess what, lost on penalties to the Germans), and reached the Semis of the 2018 World Cup. All too often England have developed a number of talented players, but flattered to deceive at major competitions. It could be argued that expectations among the Germans were muted ahead of a poor 2018 World Cup and average performances at Euro 2020, but England weren’t exactly setting the world alight with glorious football. Captain Harry Kane, normally so reliable in front of goal, had been quiet in the trio of group stage games. Manager Gareth Southgate wasn’t encouraging his players to play with any fizz and speed – this was frustrating, for England’s best performances came when they played with urgency and pace.
So, it would be reasonable to say I wasn’t optimistic. Would my doubts be erased by a surprisingly scintillating showing? Or would England’s tame game lead to defeat against the inconsistent yet persistent Germans?
My Wife is Right
The game itself was cagey. England opted for a cautious approach and the Germans were tentative. That said, both sides had opportunities to score in the first half, but after the first 45 minutes the game was goalless. The prospect of extra time and penalties was still some way off, but could it be ignored? Would anyone take the game by the scruff of the neck and make a decisive move?
The answer was an empathic YES. Gareth Southgate’s seemingly timid outlook has hidden something from sight – England have proven hard to beat. Going into the Germany game England had conceded very few chances, and it would appear the guiding belief was ‘to win, we must first not lose’. In the second half England would begin to make changes, bringing on the adventurous Grealish, and they would start to move the ball about with more hunger.
However, it was the tenacity, running and passing of left-back Luke Shaw and the oft-maligned-yet-talented Raheem Sterling that brought England a moment to treasure, with 75 minutes of the 90 played. Shaw got clear on the left flank and zipped the ball across the floor for Sterling to tap in from close range, sending England fans into a state of heady joy. Sterling now had three goals in four games, having delivered the winners against Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stages.
England’s late lead was nearly squandered only a short moment later. A mistake from Sterling allowed Germany to play in Thomas Muller, a very accomplished forward for club and country, who found himself one-on-one with England ‘keeper Pickford. Somehow he conspired to the screw the ball not only to Pickford’s right, but right of the post too. He collapsed to his knees in agony, dismayed to have missed such a golden chance.
England punished his mistake. Grealish got down the left flank and delivered a cross across the German goal for skipper Harry Kane to head home. If England’s fans had been joyous before, they found themselves in a state of utter delirium. For Kane the moment was cathartic. He had come under a lot of criticism for his subpar performances in the group stage, and until his 86th minute goal he’d been quiet once again. Scoring is the best tonic for a striker, and Kane will gain a massive confidence boost from getting the goal.
England repelled a meagre German attempt to get themselves back into the game, taking a much-deserved 2-0 win to head into the quarter-finals.
I’d been quite negative before the game. Germany seemed to hold a power over England. This result will be a huge weight off England’s shoulders, and Kane’s goal will be a tremendous boost for the captain. For Gareth Southgate there will be vindication. Four games, three wins, no goals conceded.
Preparing for Endings and Beginnings
Soon my daughter finishes junior school and the school itself is organising a few activities (muted due to the pandemic but at least they’re doing something). At present she is a big fish in a small pond – when she moves up to senior school in September she will be a small fish. This will be a shock to her system and I suspect a shock to mine as well. I worry about how she will adapt to the new school and the different environment, with all the new expectations and new faces. I have mixed memories of senior school and I desperately want her experience to be better. A lot of that is out of my hands, so all I can do is arm her with whatever wisdom I have, and hopefully that will be enough.
That’s all for this Muse folks. Stay tuned for more!