Monday 30 November 2020

The latent intoxication

Destiny sometimes proffers us a glass of madness to drink. A hand is thrust out of the mist, and suddenly hands us the mysterious cup in which is contained the latent intoxication.

Victor Hugo - The Man Who Laughs (1869)

COVID-19: Matt Hancock says virus is 'back under control' - but we must stay vigilant

The health secretary says England's second lockdown has driven down cases, but warns: "We don't have much headroom."

The health secretary has said that England's lockdown means "we've got this virus back under control" - but warned continued vigilance is needed in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Matt Hancock acknowledged that the second national shutdown has been tough.

If Hancock thinks the coronavirus debacle has been anything but a monumentally incompetent disaster, then he has lost whatever marbles he ever had. He was offered a glass of madness to drink and the fool drank it.

Five Boys Chocolate


Mrs H and I were talking about chocolate this morning and how our tastes have changed over the decades. Among various brands Mrs H happened to mention was Fry's Five Boys chocolate. I barely remember it, but that may be because Mrs Salt's sweetshop didn't stock it.

We agreed that much of the chocolate we used to enjoy would probably seem too sweet now, although even at the time it is surprising how few favourites we really had. In particular, any chocolates purporting to have a strawberry centre. They always turned out to be a core of pink goo with an excessively sweet and distinctly chemical flavour. Which is probably what it was - sugary fondant with artificial flavouring and colouring.

I remember liking Fry's Chocolate Cream though. Maybe peppermint tasted less artificial than some flavours. As for Quality Street, I must have eaten loads of them because they were one of my mother's favourites, but there were only one or two I remember enjoying. The green triangle was my least favourite of the Quality Street selection - a kind of ersatz chocolate pap with bits in it.  

These days it's dark chocolate with coffee for me and that's about it. I never became a chocoholic. That horrible strawberry fondant probably had something to do with it.

Sunday 29 November 2020

As the transistor radio fades away

Yesterday, Son dug out his transistor radio to listen to Saturday afternoon football. It looks much the same as a biggish transistor radio with a chrome aerial, although it is a modern version with FM, DAB and the ability to stream radio stations from the internet.

“What’s that?” asked Grandson.

The grandkids hadn’t really seen the radio before, didn’t know what it was and were particularly puzzled by the chrome aerial. Son was tuning the thing in, looking for the local radio station and of course there was the usual hissing as he did so.

“What’s that noise? Is it broken?” Asked both grandkids.

They are familiar with the internet via all kinds of devices such as mobile phones, streamed TV, computer games, telling Alexa to switch off this and that, but not a transistor radio with its mysterious aerial.

Imagine knowing nothing about transistor radios…

Come to think of it - they haven’t missed much.

Saturday 28 November 2020

As old as the mastodon

There was, however, something real and general in his trouble, something that is as old as the mastodon, and older, but something that has increasingly attacked our post-war world. It is the disease of homelessness. Very many of us seem today to belong to no place, no purpose, scarcely to ourselves.

Hugh Walpole - John Cornelius (1937)

A perennial pondering is this. If we don’t attach ourselves to a place, then maybe we have to attach ourselves to a fake place. A social class perhaps. Known people, known tastes, known culture. 

This overlaps with a sense of place because that too involves people, tastes and culture, but when a sense of place is absent, what is left? A sense of purpose perhaps, but a sense of purpose tied to what?

Seems old hat now, but our political class and media pundits seem to belong to no place, no purpose. As landowners the aristocracy down to the local squire had a sense of place, but people from our cosmopolitan upper middle class? Probably not and these are the people now running things.

This is the impression Boris Johnson gives - a powerful impression that he is not grounded in anything but his social class and his personal ambition. Based on his current performance, he appears to be poorly equipped for the role of Prime Minister. Unfortunately we no longer produce people who are.

Friday 27 November 2020

Snipped Off

It was too late really, but a last drink seemed to be essential before the trek home to a cold flat. Anyhow I had to tell Alice about my weird dream. Perhaps the atmosphere of the pub and the murky street outside played a part too. After the clamour of the day things sometimes become dreamlike as life finally goes quiet. Well in my world they do.

“Did I ever tell you about my spooky dream?” I asked Alice as she carefully placed those last drinks on the table. She is always careful like that. Tidy too.

“Which one? You seem to have loads of dreams.” Alice seemed tired as she slumped back and took a sip of that last drink. She wasn’t really listening but Alice doesn’t listen much. That’s why I like telling her things.

“My dream about the railway journey,” I explained.

“Clackety clack through the storm? I’ve heard it.”

“No - not that one. No - in this one it’s snow. Miles of untrodden snow – and trees, miles of trees. A train ploughs its way through a vast snowscape - like a Russian landscape. Endless snow studded with fir trees.”

“A puffing train?”

“Well yes - I suppose it was a steam train.” Alice always picks up on these things so I have to explain the details but I don’t mind.

“So you recently watched a movie like Doctor Zhivago or something. That’s what dreams are, just memories of stuff.”

“No, not Doctor Zhivago – nothing like that. I was all alone in the carriage and it was almost dark outside. A strange purplish dusk it was, with long fingers of moonlight pointing at me through all those black fir trees. And it was seriously cold - although I didn’t feel the cold because it was outside. I felt it through the carriage window though – that unearthly alien cold. Like being on another planet.”

“It would be cold. You know why? The clue is the snow – I’m surprised you didn’t spot that. And what was Doctor Zhivago doing while all this snowy angst was going on?” Alice is cynical like that. It’s deflating sometimes.

“I told you - it wasn’t Doctor Zhivago. I haven’t watched it in years. Anyway there was hardly anyone else on the train and every now and then we passed an inn or a house or just a shack and they all had a light in the window. Or sometimes we would come across a station with an empty waiting room.”

“And did the train stop so you could nip off and grab a coffee?”

“No but the train did stop at every station. Shadowy people appeared from nowhere and got on while some got off and faded into the snowy wasteland just beyond the station. More like shadows than people they were. Sometimes the train just stopped in the middle of nowhere then started again.”

“So what made you remember this version of the train spotter's favourite dream? Because it sounds so boring I’d have woken up for a nice drink of water to assuage the tedium.”

“I remember it because it was my subconscious telling me something important.”

“About Doctor Zhivago?”

“No – forget Doctor bloody Zhivago. It wasn’t that at all.”

“Sounds like it to me.”

“No it was telling me something much deeper.”


“It was telling me about luck - or something like luck. The train was taking me somewhere, but I didn’t actually know where I wanted to go because we can’t see into the future. It didn’t matter if I stayed on the train, got off at one of the stations and waited for another or if I decided to get off in the middle of nowhere and make my way to one of those inns with a light in the window.”

“Or if you simply wandered off through those dark trees among the fingers of moonlight, where the only sound is that creaking noise when you tread on fresh snow.”

“That was an option too.”

“Not a good option I’d say, not without survival gear. Or did you have that?”

“That wasn’t the point. The point was – well anyway I think it was all about the unknown. I had no way of knowing where I was going and what I would gain by staying on the train or by getting off at one of the stations. The only thing keeping me on the train was inertia, but even there I was trusting the unknown.”

“So – sounds like a fairly commonplace homily packed into a spooky dream. I wish I had dreams like that.”

“That’s not it either. The dream was telling me more – that life is essentially spooky. We pretend it isn’t and we pretend we know where we are going but we don’t. There are journeys we take and journeys we could take but don’t and we can’t tell which is best.”

“I don’t see what’s spooky about that. It’s life as we know it.”

“The spooky aspect was the trees and the fingers of moonlight.”

“Okay so it was visually spooky. I can see that.”

“The trees and the fingers of moonlight – that was the unknown watching us. Like an eye. The eye of reality adapting itself to whatever we do, reaching into our lives. Most of the time we gather together, turn on the lights, go about our business, go to the pub, make some noise and pretend it isn’t there but it is. It’s there in the street outside this pub, waiting for us to leave.”

“Well yes… I’m sure life seems a little spooky if you insist on seeing it like that.” Alice shivered theatrically and glanced over her shoulder at the empty bar.

“The spooky aspect is that we can’t stay on the train and get off the train. We can’t do both.”

“What? That’s supposed to be spooky? It isn’t spooky it’s nonsense.”

“Of course it’s nonsense, but that’s the spooky aspect too. The point is that if I decided to stay on the train – well that was it. All the possibilities open to me by getting off the train – they just disappeared. Gone forever.”


“Until the train moved off again, being able to get off and do something else was part of my human potential. It was real, I could have done it so easily. Get up. Open the door. Step onto the platform. But reality just snuffed it out. Those fingers of moonlight – they were just like ethereal pairs of scissors.”

“Now that is spooky.”

“It is spooky. A rich seam of alternative possibilities all gone. Part of my unrealised potential until it was –

“Snipped off?”

“I suppose so.”

Thursday 26 November 2020

And still it goes on

Socrates, it is said, exclaimed in the presence of Euthydemus and many others, “Critias seems to have the feelings of a pig: he can no more keep away from Euthydemus than pigs can help rubbing themselves against stones.” Now Critias bore a grudge against Socrates for this; and when he was one of the Thirty and was drafting laws with Charicles, he bore it in mind. He inserted a clause which made it illegal “to teach the art of words.”

Xenophon – Memorabilia

The internet is an integral part of everyday life for so many people. Nearly nine in ten UK adults and 99% of 12 to 15 year olds are online. As the internet continues to grow and transform our lives, often for the better, we should not ignore the very real harms which people face online every day.

In the wrong hands the internet can be used to spread terrorist and other illegal or harmful content, undermine civil discourse, and abuse or bully other people. Online harms are widespread and can have serious consequences.

It isn't going to end is it?  

Wednesday 25 November 2020



Sunset photo hastily snapped from a bedroom window yesterday evening. Autumn is a time of beauty but so often we barely notice. 

On the school run at this time of year we often see a beautiful sunrise with vast swathes of fiery colour streaked across the eastern horizon. Or early morning mist filling the valley like a silver grey sea with only a church steeple and a few trees rising above it. I sometimes think I should stop the car and take a photo, but never do. Too much traffic and things to do. Clock ticking, things to do.

Autumn tree colours seem to have been particularly beautiful this year too, but maybe this year hasn't been unusual in that respect. A stark contrast between the beauties of nature and the ugliness of human madness may be in the mix too.   

Poverty poverty slammed

In a recent article, Dr Nikki Splurgeon, head of Poverty Poverty Forensics at Fradley University, has slammed the government record on what she describes as “poverty poverty”.

“This government has failed miserably in its duty to bear down on poverty poverty,” she claims. She goes on to explain that it has “failed in its basic moral imperative to identify unidentified poverty hidden under layers of planet-hating complacency."

“This,” she says “is poverty poverty, the social poverty of blatantly ignoring ignored poverty. It is real and it is here now, here in our pathological, consumerist, planet-destroying midst.”

Dr Splurgeon does not pull any punches while attacking what she sees as a pernicious social injustice. “There is in this country a deplorable poverty deficit in that the full range of poverties has never been rooted out and dealt with as any decent, civilised country should be doing right now, today, this very second.”

Dr Splurgeon has certainly given us something to think about.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Neil Oliver: All political parties are 'self-harming'


This is interesting if you haven't seen it. TV presenter Neil Oliver gives his views on a number of topical issues, yet although his take on them is considered and quite moderate it is also damning. Things are bad when even a moderate view is damning.  

Monday 23 November 2020

Thanks Boris

As we know, a sinister aspect of the coronavirus debacle has been the emergence of volunteer police informers. We are aware of at least two instances where this issue has interfered with the daily lives of people within our circle of friends, family and acquaintances. In our limited experience, this makes it more common than a serious coronavirus illness.

A previously amenable neighbour informs the police about the visit of a parent to a nearby house. The visit was legitimate within current rules but the police arrived on the doorstep and all had to be explained.

Family members stroll around a park, but as they are not in the same bubble, different groups within the same family decide not to walk together in case there are informers around.

Thanks Boris.

Sunday 22 November 2020

No going back

Today we made a snap decision to buzz off to Matlock for breakfast. Getting up late to a sunny morning had something to do with it. Takeout of course, but off we went in the late autumn sunshine with the top down and very pleasant it was too. In these preposterous times we tend to take life as it comes and try to make the best of each day. A benefit of the coronavirus shambles I suppose.

Matlock was surprisingly busy but we managed to find a bench in the park where we enjoyed an excellent bacon cob and a coffee from our favourite takeout café. There was even a fair amount of warmth in the sun which had certainly encouraged lots of families to take a stroll in the park.

As Mrs H observed, it was almost as if the restrictive Sunday shopping laws had returned. As if people had temporarily lost the urge to wander round soul-free malls buying stuff they don’t need. It was good to see young families strolling around the park on a Sunday morning, but there is no going back. At this time of year many Sundays are wet, grey and cold and it was never a day of rest for everyone.

The ‘Fair Trade’ principle at work


We don't buy Fairtrade coffee, but the quality problem seems to be an old one.   For example -

A simple example illustrates this point. A farmer has two bags of coffee to sell and there is a Fair Trade buyer for only one bag. The farmer knows bag A would be worth $1.70 per pound on the open market because the quality is high and bag B would be worth only $1.20 because the quality is lower. Which should he sell as Fair Trade coffee for the guaranteed price of $1.40?

Saturday 21 November 2020

Our Teflon Civil Service

Boris Johnson 'asked for Patel report to be palatable', source claims

Boris Johnson is facing questions about whether he tried to tone down an independent report which said Home Secretary Priti Patel broke the ministerial code by bullying staff.

Number 10 has insisted Sir Alex Allan's conclusions were "entirely his own".

But a Whitehall source told the BBC that Sir Alex had resisted pressure to make the findings more "palatable".

Yet we have already been told -

The definition of bullying adopted by the Civil Service accepts that legitimate, reasonable and constructive criticism of a worker's performance will not amount to bullying.

It defines bullying as intimidating or insulting behaviour that makes an individual feel uncomfortable, frightened, less respected or put down.

Ah - feelings again. What the Civil Service appears to accept is a spectrum of criticism from effective to ineffective, but if criticism is ineffective there isn't much else to be done. Apart from embarking on tedious and time-consuming HR processes presumably, but that will be part of the game. Not an unfamiliar situation.

Friday 20 November 2020

The BBC sticks with trivia

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out his decision later on the findings of an inquiry into the conduct of Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Sources familiar with the Cabinet Office report told the BBC it concluded Ms Patel broke rules on ministers' behaviour.

She has always strongly denied allegations of bullying.

Labour said the prime minister appeared to be involved in a "cover up" and called for the report to be published.

Presumably in BBC terms, the activities of TV Licencing are not bullying. The threatening letters, court cases, fines and prison sentences are not bullying. The totalitarian coronavirus response is not bullying. Using the police to enforce absurd and ineffective rules nobody can remember anyway - that's not bullying. 

It really is a ludicrous outfit. Well adjusted to the modern world though. May as well admit that. 

Thursday 19 November 2020

Thus if I laugh at you


Thus if I laugh at you, O fellow-men! if I trace with curious interest your labyrinthine self-delusions, note the inconsistencies in your zealous adhesions, and smile at your helpless endeavours in a rashly chosen part, it is not that I feel myself aloof from you: the more intimately I seem to discern your weaknesses, the stronger to me is the proof that I share them. How otherwise could I get the discernment?—for even what we are averse to, what we vow not to entertain, must have shaped or shadowed itself within us as a possibility before we can think of exorcising it.

 George Eliot - Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879)

Test and Trace woes

Test and Trace bosses believe they need to "rebuild public trust" and are planning a pre-Christmas push to rescue the troubled service, according to leaked slides seen by Sky News.

Yet although the slides reveal that Test and Trace has "mobilised" 27 "workstreams" to reinvent the service as part of a "countdown to Christmas", questions may be asked about why the measures are only being shown to contact tracers today - two weeks into a national lockdown that was supposed to buy time for Test and Trace to improve.

What fun - 27 "workstreams" to reinvent the service. Is there anyone at all who believes this mess can be made to work without creating a worse mess? 

Wednesday 18 November 2020

A quick win for Boris



As soon as everyone has their windows open and winter is upon us, Boris could propose an immediate impact on number 7 in his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

7. Homes and public buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.

He could call it the Now Close Your Windows One Point Plan.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

The adults have left the council too

As part of Derby City Council's announcement that 50 e-scooters will be introduced to residents in the city centre, I was asked to give one a try...

As I drove around by the Silk Mill near the river, I felt the vehicle gradually slow down as the five miles-per-hour safety feature kicked in.

Using an in-built GPS tracking system, the scooter was forced to a slower speed as I entered the busier pedestrian area of the riverside foot path, making sure I wasn't a danger to anyone on their Friday evening stroll - or myself...

At the moment, Derby City Council is only planning to introduce 50 e-scooters to the city, with priority given to key workers.

I'm not sure who key workers are. Council official nipping out for a lunchtime sandwich perhaps. Meanwhile as reported only last year.

Derby’s electric bicycle scheme is to close for good after a recent surge of vandalism and increasing costs made it commercially unviable for the operator.

The scheme, introduced at the end of June 2018, saw more than 7,000 riders travel 150,000 miles since the launch.

The announcement comes after Derbyshire Live exclusively revealed in June that the vandalism had meant the scheme was being stopped while officials thought about how it could look in the future.

Some people haven't quite grasped how to learn from experience, but when it isn't your money you don't have to. As we know. 

Monday 16 November 2020

The adults have left the room

As I was growing up, a job was something you were paid to do because it involved making something work. That something could be anything from making a column of figures add up to making a power station work, from making a farm work to making a pullover work as an item of clothing. Everything from a bus route to a brick kiln to a bar to a breakwater. It was all essentially practical.

Things have changed. A number of factors appear to be responsible for the change and one of them may be the expansion of university education. Over recent decades this has inserted immature student politics into dominant positions within national politics and the media. It appears to be driven by two key factors –
  • The rise in number of people with a university degree.
  • Economic growth and the expansion of feckless middle class politics.
Added together, these two factors appear to have landed us with a huge number of influential middle class professionals who are not equipped to make things work because they have not really outgrown their student politics.

Strident demands that everything must be pulled up and begun anew, reliance on ideology over practical experience, identity politics, environmental radicalism, political intransigence and a consequent rise in political intolerance and outright malice. These are the consequences.

Articulate but essentially immature people have huge influence in the media, politics, celebrity culture and the wider promotion of cultural immaturity. This is the striking thing about the public arena – its lack of maturity. Immaturity is inherently intolerant and what we see developing now is widespread institutional intolerance.

We saw a tragic lack of genuine maturity during the coronavirus debacle. A time for leadership, ferociously difficult decisions and an almost wartime level of responsibility. It didn’t happen. There were no adults in the room.

Sunday 15 November 2020

Labour demands more repression



The problem is poisonous politics, not people who question orthodoxies. Coronavirus vaccine developments are interesting, but that does not mean the UK government response wasn't an unforgivable totalitarian shambles. And it still is.

We should not be distracted from that by yet more calls from the usual suspects to suppress free speech. For example -

Anti-vaccination content on social media is "poison" and "garbage" and should be "stamped-out", Labour has said.

"Stamped-out" indeed. Isn't that revealing?

Saturday 14 November 2020

Why did PM sack Dominic?

Westminster is agog today over the story that Prime Minister Carrie Symonds sacked highly placed advisor Dominic Cummings. It is said that Mr Cummings was briefing against her and her fiancé - flamboyant MP Boris Johnson.

The reasons behind the rift appear to be deep and murky. As a young cosmopolitan woman, Prime Minister Symonds is felt to be in close touch with the opinions voters ought to have on core issues such as the coronavirus, Brexit and climate change while Mr Cummings has been accused by some of being “intelligent”.

Although Ms Symonds allows Boris Johnson to attend cabinet meetings and take notes for her, it is thought that this approach has also caused deep internal fissures in the already rocky workings of No 10.

More on this story as it develops.

Friday 13 November 2020

Have we reached peak gravy train yet?


Daddy - is that the gravy train you missed? 

The gravy train seems to sum up so much of modern life and the corrupt antics of those who rule over us, but it is worth remembering lesser gravy trains which are no less important. It isn’t only the UN, EU and an uncountable number of quangos transporting the gravy. Those are the mainstream gravy trains, but think of the plodding climate scientist and epidemiologist too.

An employer who cannot go bust, a steady job for life, good holidays, easy employment terms, some foreign travel, conference jollies and an index-linked pension. What’s not to like about that? Very common in the public sector and for those with modest expectation perhaps we should regard it as just as much a gravy train as a quango directorship.

While retaining our focus on the mainline gravy train routes we should recall the multitude of little branch lines Dr Beeching was never asked to cull. 

Thursday 12 November 2020

Bakewell is closed


Bakewell - Closed

We visited Bakewell today. The weather was pleasant enough to drive there and back with the top down, but when we arrived the car park was virtually deserted. As far as we could see the town pretty much closed too, apart from the Co-op and one or two takeaway coffee places. A pity really. Something to do with government incompetence I believe. Many cock-ups are.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Various self-advancing sentiments


It was not for nothing that, in his college days, he had hunted the hypothetical "moral sense" to its lair, and dragged from their concealment the various self-advancing sentiments dissembled under its edifying guise.

Edith Wharton - Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910) 

The most interesting thing about Mr Biden is the transparency of the process. If ever there was a puppet deliberately slotted into high office by power-brokers it is old Joe. The whole thing wasn’t even disguised. So open was it that presumably only Democrats failed to spot it. Although some must have spotted it, but they probably expect to be beneficiaries.



From RH

Tuesday 10 November 2020

The Blitz is another planet now

Resilience is a rum thing isn’t it? I grew up in the fifties when World War II was still a recent memory. The adults I knew had all lived through it. Fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, teachers and many others had fought in the war, done their bit, coped and survived. Afterwards they remembered the dead, picked up the threads and moved on.

It was a resilient generation because it had to be and for other reasons apart from the war. Yet since those days, human resilience has become curiously unfashionable, even on occasion something to be deplored. Or rather, it has become curiously fashionable to pretend that people are not resilient. If they are, then there must be something wrong with them.

As the wartime generation faded away, their obvious resilience was quietly set aside as something to be both acknowledged and forgotten at the same time. Inconsistent of course, but inconsistent is one of those things we do well.

Now, people who display their resilience must be pretending to be resilient - or so the narrative goes. Deep down they must be suffering. As if the deep down suffering is almost compulsory or you are not a real person with real feelings. You are hiding them and hiding things is bad. The bad person is made to emerge from an apparently caring environment.

Yes – it is absurd. Yes – there is a sinister enforcement aspect to all this. A subtle shading into political identities based on feelings which don’t even have be real feelings as long as we shed a whimper or two. A quiet aspect of identity politics - Insider or Outsider. We see it all the time in woke politics and the absurd ease with which offence is claimed over trivia. Mind boggling trivia.

The point of it all? As ever, a primary government aim is to reduce expectations in the general population. On top of that we have political ideologies where this is a prerequisite. Undermining resilience is simply a means towards a culture of abject political compliance. It isn't new.    

We haven't disposed of resilience altogether of course. We appear to have reached a state where resilience has become something the mass media dole out to chosen heroes. They hand it out whenever resilience is necessary for the drama of the story. Like a medal perhaps. The Resilience Star Third Class. 

Just as we cannot make our own medals, we are not supposed to have our own resilience without higher approval. The Blitz is another planet now.

Shock BBC headline - loon says something loony



Monday 9 November 2020

Spin V Data

Following on from the previous post. The short video below was released on July 1st and to my mind it is a good example and reminder of how ruthlessly lockdown was sold to political leaders and the media during the coronavirus debacle.  


Ruthlessness is a rum notion isn’t it. The idea overlaps with stubborn, pig-headed, narcissistic, egomaniac, fanatical and self-interested. That is not to claim that these characteristics are roughly the same, merely that they overlap in the murky arena of consequences.

What they have in common is the situations they lead to. Obviously enough, these are situations where other people and their ideas count for almost nothing, often nothing at all. Of course the easy one, the one requiring least mental effort is where the ideas of other people count for nothing. Zilch.

A egomaniac collects some followers and dependents - we have the seed of ruthlessness. Individuals do not have to be ruthless in order to become part of a ruthless environment or movement. Ruthlessness is much more common than we pretend. Easily seeded and easily grown.

Most people do not appear to know that they are a contributory part of a ruthless environment or movement. We know that already. Too often we see ordinary decent people nod their approval of political movements which are quite clearly ruthless, even though most supporters are not necessarily ruthless at all. Idle, timid or priggish self-interest will do it.

Sunday 8 November 2020

The BBC Effect


Videos such as this must kick off a few trains of thought, but to my mind one of them is the long-term trend towards the compulsory consumption of more and more government services. Maybe that should read “services”, but we could call it the BBC Effect.

Governments cannot hope to compete with the likes of Amazon in their service delivery so the choice is stark. Pull back government to its bare, deliverable essentials or make the consumption of government services effectively compulsory via a vast, pervasive network of patronage and dependency.

The BBC already has what may be a terminal problem now that everything it does is done better elsewhere. The UK government has similar problems with everything it does too. It is not only the NHS and and the coronavirus debacle.

In other words, totalitarian government may be an inevitable response to the scary levels of efficiency we see from free enterprise behemoths such as Amazon. If government services are not good enough, make them compulsory or very difficult to escape.

Saturday 7 November 2020

A Saturday afternoon

This piece by AndyMac in AltNewsMedia is well worth reading. It reminds us yet again of the moral and political downsides of the welfare state.

For Richard (my best mate) and I to spend that blazing hot Saturday afternoon in the November of 2007 kicking a football around with some of the slum kids in Bombay’s Dharavi commune was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life...

As a tourist there, don’t be surprised if you’re swamped by schoolchildren asking you to appear in a selfie with them. And it’s all ‘Sir this’ and Sir that’. There’s none of this ‘Got the time on yer, mate?!’ from the precocious little swines you find in this benighted land.

We spent over three hours kicking that ball around with those lads. They literally had next to nothing in terms of worldly possessions, but not once did they ever exhibit anything except appreciation and contentment…and they relished the opportunity to talk to us and find out more about us. It’s not hyperbolic to say that afternoon was one of the real life-changing events for us. !..

Why am I retelling this story? Because of the shame I feel at having to live in a society where so many (already in receipt of a panoply of welfare payments) are encouraged to abandon what little financial support they provide for their own children and instead seek to grasp still more from weak politicians, attention-seeking celebrities and agenda-ridden news outlets. No child in Britain will ever come anywhere near to enduring the levels of hardship my mate and I saw that Saturday. They haven’t the slightest clue what poverty is all about. Oh yes they throw the word around like broken plates at a Greek wedding, yet simultaneously have about as much appreciation of the realities of the term as I do. Probably less, actually, because they’ll never see or feel what Richard and I saw and felt that weekend 13 years ago.

Friday 6 November 2020

A drum for the rousing of the people

She had lost her faith in journalism as a drum for the rousing of the people against wrong. Its beat had led too often to the trickster's booth, to the cheap-jack's rostrum. It had lost its rallying power. The popular Press had made the newspaper a byword for falsehood. Even its supporters, while reading it because it pandered to their passions, tickled their vices, and flattered their ignorance, despised and disbelieved it.

Jerome K. Jerome - All Roads Lead to Calvary (1919)

Mass media - it’s a rum business isn’t it? Supposedly widely disbelieved and despised, but effective enough to unseat* Donald Trump, a reasonably competent and upfront US president in favour of an obviously unsuitable phony.

Supposedly it was Trump’s horribleness** which caused his media problems, but that wasn’t it at all. To my mind his core problem is that huge numbers of middle class people need the simplicity and the virtue signals so copiously supplied by phony politics and the media. They need the media fairy tales and they insist that the horrible enemies of  happy ending fantasies be crushed. So that’s how they vote - they vote Disney.

We see the same perennial problem over here in the UK. High level political phonies such as Tony Blair leave trails of destruction which can take a generation to put right. Some of it will never be put right. Trump leaves no trail of destruction but it doesn't help.

And always we get yet another phony and still the mass media promote them. The media need phonies because they are newsworthy. They have to be – there is no point being an obscure political phony. Even Jeremy Corbyn knows that.

Trump tried to make himself newsworthy and succeeded, but did it without media support and in the end his obvious ability wasn't quite enough. He couldn’t be capable and newsworthy at the same time. That turned out to be a remarkably powerful disadvantage.

*Not certain at the time of posting.

**A technical term embracing almost all of the criticisms put forward by Trump’s political opponents.

Thursday 5 November 2020

Adapting to useless

Purely a personal perspective this, but the coronavirus debacle has changed our lifestyles here in our little corner of sunny Derbyshire. We have adapted to the police state shambles in a number of ways and some of those adaptations are likely to be permanent. We are not likely to go back to where we were - not entirely.

Shopping is likely to remain as a permanent switch to online apart from those things we have to see and try on such as clothing and shoes. Even here we already buy some clothing online. This means visits to our local shopping centres are certain to be limited compared to life before the debacle. We don’t miss those visits and are not going back to old shopping habits. Saves time and fuel too.

We only took one holiday this year where normally we would have about four, but we don’t find ourselves yearning for more. Maybe we will drift back to taking the usual number, but it will be no surprise if we don’t. Fewer holidays could become a permanent change. Maybe fewer but longer, we don’t know.

Food and drink. Our eating and drinking habits have changed. Not massively, but because we do all our food shopping online and spend less time on it, we find it easier to try new recipes. I’m not sure why this is, but it seems to be so.

Because of restrictions on dropping into a café we drink much more coffee at home. I don’t see us going back to old habits on that one either, although we’ll revisit favourite cafes after the lockdown nonsense finally ends. Possibly not as often though.

We are likely to be more prepared for the unexpected too. Larger stocks of supplies including food, medical supplies and maybe some emergency lighting in case of prolonged power cuts. Not so much because of an increased sense of insecurity but because the government and official bodies have proved quite conclusively how useless they really are. In the end we even adapt to useless.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

The curse of the greasy pole



Something we don’t always acknowledge is that there are integrity problems with people who successfully climb the greasy pole. Even those who reach the top of their profession still have further to go if they have the necessary ambition. Unfortunately, that necessary ambition is likely to take them well beyond their professional integrity. It is this last stretch of the greasy pole which sucks away the hard-earned integrity.

This final leg up the greasy pole is the celebrity stretch where ambitious climbers finally become media pundits. Thespians with opinions, celebrity academics, celebrity scientists, celebrity sport stars, celebrity clerics, celebrity politicians. All have made the choice and are now good for a quote, a soundbite or a self-serving media piece.

The thing they all have in common is their ambition and the curse of the greasy pole which took away their integrity. It isn’t only politicians either. In spite of their miserable reputation, politicians are far from being the lowest of the low when it comes to a willingness to trade professional integrity for a leg up the greasy pole.

Tuesday 3 November 2020



I recently came across the word homespun and for some reason wondered if usage of the word has declined significantly with the advent of machine-made clothing. 

...the woman was bare-headed, with blown hair, untidy and turning gray, and the man, in worn shapeless homespun, with a short beard turning gray also, was as careless in dress and bearing as his companion.

Edith Wharton - Human Nature (1933)

Not a wildly uncommon word even today, but one I expected to be on a downward path as far as usage goes. Apparently not though according to Google Ngram Viewer. Round about 1980 the downward trend went into reverse and has levelled off for about fifteen years.

Is that because of a rising interest in hand-crafted clothing as opposed to machine-made cheapo wear? I don't know, but to my eye that graph contains a hint of eco-middle-class fantasy.

Monday 2 November 2020

Things could be worse

Even smugglers in North Korea are having a tough time. Not from COVID-19 but from rapacious bureaucrats.

As North Korea attempts to hermetically seal its border to stop COVID-19 from entering the country, Daily NK has learned that bullying by bureaucrats in the border city of Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, is growing worse by the day.

“Recently, demands for bribes by enforcement or customs officials in Sinuiju have reached extremes,” a source in North Pyongan Province told the Daily NK on Oct. 22. “As crackdowns on locals grow, people are clamoring that [times] are tough.”...

Some Ministry of State Security cadres are reportedly taking even more extreme measures: learning which smugglers have amassed plenty of property at their homes and visiting them to demand bribes.

“Smugglers [complain] that they’re getting swarmed by flies [Ministry of State Security officers] day in and day out,” the source said. “They’re groaning that they can’t make money with smuggling shut down and that they also have to cough up money.”

Sunday 1 November 2020

Jeremy and Boris have something in common

An obvious but still striking aspect of the UK coronavirus debacle is how an intransigent reliance on centrally mandated rules has screwed up any possibility of a rational and flexible response. It has generated a situation where government, experts and the media have boxed themselves into a rationale which clearly doesn’t work. Now there is no exit where reputations could possibly remain intact.

Years ago I worked on a few projects with a guy who was criticised as intransigent. I liked him, got on well with him and never joined in the criticism, but he was certainly intransigent. He was usually right but not always and it led him into positions where there was no exit unless he compromised. But he wouldn’t do that. A huge pity I thought.

Now we have a coronavirus mess where the government insists on playing the central edict game, apparently to the bitter end whatever the cost. Crude intransigence is a basic human weakness even in governments. The only way to cover it up is to exaggerate, pretend and bluster, bluster, bluster but sooner or later too many people see the shambles for what it is.

Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson have this in common - intransigence. Jeremy is intransigent in a situation where he should not have been and almost everyone knew it apart from Jeremy and a few die-hard supporters. But he was intransigent, still is and still the mess he made hasn’t been cleared up.

Boris seems to think he can get away with his version of intransigence. Yet his version has caused an immense amount of damage and probably many untimely deaths with more to come. Maybe his humiliation is yet to come but I wouldn’t put money on it for a number of reasons.

The intransigence exhibited by Boris seems to be based on a longer term goal of establishing the Tories in the only viable political position – a global woke fantasy land where voters just do as they are told because many want to anyway. The old political games are dead and the Tories must play the new game while they still have the chance - this seems to be the message.

Hence the intransigence and the reliance on second-rate advisers during the coronavirus debacle. Of course the advisers are second-rate - rational flexibility is not on the agenda. Of course the virus response is rigidly centralised - rigid centralisation is the new political normal. Hence the intransigence.