Wednesday 31 March 2021

At last - some good news

COP26 climate change summit may have to be postponed again - or radically changed - due to COVID

Two government sources suggest the Glasgow summit might have to be delayed for a second time amid signs the pandemic is worsening.

Almost unenforceable

'Rule of Six' almost unenforceable because of two-household concession, say police chiefs

Officers are taking a more 'permissive' approach than in lockdown as more people receive their Covid vaccine and infection levels flatline.

Time to do a quick check on who cares about that...



seems to be nobody at all...

Tuesday 30 March 2021

For expensive noses only

Lloyds Pharmacy is set to launch what it calls the UK’s first ever nasal spray specifically designed to fight Covid-19.

The spray, called Viraleze, claims to be made from “a specifically designed antiviral active that irreversibly inactivates greater than 99.9 per cent of coronavirus/SARS-CoV-2 within one minute”...

It should be used once in each nostril up to four times a day...

Each bottle contains 80 sprays.

Viraleze launches online this week, ahead of an in-store rollout from April 21, and will be priced at £15.

That would be £15 for 10 days or nearly £550 per year. Not for mouth breathers presumably.

Could be worse than the EU

COVID-19: Boris Johnson joins world leaders in call for global treaty to prepare for next pandemic

Boris Johnson says COVID-19 has exploited the world's divisions but countries must work together to defeat the next pandemic.

Next time let's have a treaty to blame says Boris.

Monday 29 March 2021

The policy didn’t work, so what next?



There are caveats in country by country coronavirus comparisons. With that in mind, UK coronavirus deaths per million data still suggest that government policy has not worked. The outcome has been so poor that it would not be an outrageous move if all those experts who advocated it were to be rather publicly sacked. An official government apology would be good too – from Boris and Starmer jointly.

It is not even unreasonable to suggest UK government lockdown policies have probably made the impact of the virus worse than it would have been with a lighter touch. Carry on as usual, protect the vulnerable and a heavy information campaign for example.

To my mind the only people to come out of this with any credit are those involved with researching, testing, manufacturing and delivering the vaccine. It is not necessary to delve into the validity of the vaccine approach to see that - we need to take away something positive. Yet even this should be questioned if and when we see another seasonal rise in infections. A public mea culpa is obviously necessary to kick that off. It won't happen.

Sunday 28 March 2021


COVID-19: Kate launches Hold Still photo book bringing 'poignant and personal' lockdown stories to life

The duchess says "the power of the images is in the poignant and personal stories that sit behind them".

No thanks. I already have two folders of family lockdown photos, one for 2020 and one for 2021. I haven't yet created a folder for 2022. 

Oh well, here's one of my lockdown photos. I've called it Knob. It's a reminder that I polished all the brass doorknobs in the house. Also a lasting reminder of those who brought lockdowns upon us.

The Raleigh Chopper


Not my era of course, but our kids had lookalike versions.

Saturday 27 March 2021

Routine comes down like twilight on a harsh landscape


Routine comes down like twilight on a harsh landscape, softening it until it is tolerable. The complexity is too subtle, too varied; the values are changing utterly with each lesion of vitality; it has begun to appear that we can learn nothing from the past with which to face the future — so we cease to be impulsive, convincible men, interested in what is ethically true by fine margins, we substitute rules of conduct for ideas of integrity, we value safety above romance, we become, quite unconsciously, pragmatic.

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Beautiful and Damned (1922)

 The other day, Mrs H had to contact our GP surgery because of an intermittent issue which requires a prescription. She made contact through an online system, was phoned by a doctor within a couple of hours and the same afternoon I collected the prescription which had been transmitted electronically to the pharmacist.

 The smooth competence of the overall routine was mostly down to computer systems which even in the past decade or so have been improved, sorted and extended. This appears to be one of the major gains from computers – sorted routines rather than artificial intelligence. Maybe this is the real monster.

 In a technical sense the doctor could have been any doctor anywhere in the world, although for that to happen we would need global integrity as well as global computer routines. Maybe that will come over time as we substitute rules of conduct for ideas of integrity.

 Ah yes – rules of conduct. That one moves us on from Mrs H contacting our GP surgery to the coronavirus debacle. As we know, the UK Coronavirus Act 2020 was recently passed by 484 votes to 76, a majority of 408. By a huge majority MPs voted to extend government control over all aspects of our lives. 

As things stand, this implies some permanent level of routine control over all aspects of our lives. Sorted computer routines are already being embedded in the process. Those which are not yet sorted will be sorted one way or another and vast numbers of voters are likely to be quite happy with that. 

Routine comes down like twilight on a harsh landscape, softening it until it is tolerable. And it will be tolerable – for most.

Friday 26 March 2021

Insufficiently totalitarian

Some Friday evening speculation and not original because speculations never are, but worth a thought or two. Amid all the questions raised about the safety of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, the rocket-propelled mass vaccination programme of Boris Johnson’s government stands out.

In which case why is it being undermined by questions about safety? Could be valid questions and could be human nature of course and questions should be asked anyway. Probably that’s it but as ever we should be cynical. With that in mind it becomes obvious enough that an inexpensive vaccine was not supposed to be the answer to Covid-19 and its likely seasonal nature. 

In which case a permanent cycle of lockdowns and civil liberty restrictions were always the main prize and Boris has partly upset the plan. Pump up the viral variants seems to be one answer to that, but it is also clear that totalitarian plans are being reformulated, narratives rewritten to cast doubt on the too-simple vaccination approach.

The vaccination rush has also been criticised from an individual liberty perspective which is valid of course, but from a totalitarian point of view, perhaps it allows too much liberty. Too simple. Not sufficiently bureaucratic. Insufficiently totalitarian for the usual suspects.

Thursday 25 March 2021

A lifetime in search of...


Anything for a story

A well-known Derbyshire tourist town is on the verge of losing one of its biggest attractions - thousands of love locks attached to one of its river bridges.

Love locks started to appear on the Weir Bridge in Bakewell in 2012 and now both sides of the footbridge are covered in locks of all shapes and sizes.

One of its biggest attractions? Decide for yourself.


Wednesday 24 March 2021

Infamous and irremediable

It was one of the tolerated scandals of Sambir, disapproved and accepted, a manifestation of that base acquiescence in success, of that inexpressed and cowardly toleration of strength, that exists, infamous and irremediable, at the bottom of all hearts, in all societies; whenever men congregate.

Joseph Conrad - An Outcast of the Islands (1896)

There is no doubt that the UK establishment is powerful - as they are in all functioning nations. It has the money, power and narrative controls to do as it chooses. The only constraints are broad constraints such as economic reality, the outer limits of believability and the remarkably broad and forgiving limits of internal incompetence. Because of course, establishments usually forgive themselves for their incompetence.

The coronavirus debacle highlights this as nothing else has within my lifetime. We voters are less than pawns in a partly covert game and are likely to remain so. To my mind the dispiriting aspect of the whole sorry mess is that far too many people are not disposed to analyse political issues. They dislike and ignore  conclusions which vary significantly from interlinked establishment narratives.

This crucial weakness is made worse by establishment narratives which include threads of misdirected criticism parody and even satire. Or a façade of challenging opposition which may be challenging but rarely represents significant opposition.

If establishments begin to rot from the inside then nothing much can be done. We have lies, corruption and incompetence in any establishment, but if they become too prominent, where is the way back apart from a resurgence of honesty and integrity? Where would that come from here in the UK?

As things stand we appear to be doomed.

Strewth - what a tool

Harry's new job could open his eyes to how the other half live

San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the US, but it also has high levels of homelessness.

What the blue blazes are they on about? Harry has made a considerable effort to show the entire world that he intends to apply his wife's self-serving ideologies to all social and political problems. The rest is window dressing. 

We are doomed.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

We can't easily bin this one

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

William Shakespeare - Hamlet

The other day we received a hand-written letter from the local chapter of Jehovah’s Witnesses inviting us to join them. Presumably this was their lockdown alternative to knocking on doors, trying to persuade the unpersuadable. However it did serve as a reminder of how often we are invited into political movements as passive disciples.

Language games are primarily where the invitations lurk. Like that Witness letter. I don’t know if it was always like this, but I suspect not because language today feels much more constrained than was the case only a few decades ago. As certain language games become widely understood as appropriate, virtuous or merely safe, we are invited into a global language game, an invitation which is increasingly difficult to decline.

Don’t talk about immigration, talk favourably about diversity or white privilege. Don’t talk about climate, talk about the human responsibility for climate change. Don’t talk about the environment without mentioning carbon pollution, species extinction and saving the planet. Don’t talk about men and women, talk about the patriarchy. Don’t fill up with petrol or diesel, fill up with dirty stinking fossil fuel while saying if only I could afford an electric car. And so on and so on forever.

Our language is being used to mould us into passive disciples of a global political movement where even polite refusal to play the game has consequences. Embedded in our day-to-day language are games which many people may not fully understand, but they understand where the minefields are. Even the factual language we use to decline the invitation is deemed inappropriate under the rules of the game. 

Active or passive disciples of climate change, coronavirus lockdown, mass vaccination, race guilt, history revision, gender cults, recycling, sustainable power, electric cars, immigration and the EU. That’s the choice – active or passive. The list is long and growing and there is an implacable intention to make life difficult for those who have not yet joined.

It is not at all like that harmless letter from the Witnesses. We can't easily bin this one.

Monday 22 March 2021

Dealing with extra-terrestrial threats

A nationwide survey reveals that 11% of the British public think they have seen a UFO, how 26% believe aliens exist and more than half agree that intelligent life exists somewhere in the universe.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults was undertaken by TV channel BLAZE ahead of a week of programmes dedicated to UFOs, aliens and the extra-terrestrial. UFO Week takes place from Monday 22nd March, with brand-new TV shows exploring whether we are alone in the universe or if aliens have been visiting Earth...

More than a quarter (27%) of those surveyed think that the UK Government should have a war or battle plan in place for a potential alien invasion, and nearly a third (31%) feel there should be a dedicated task force for dealing with extra-terrestrial threats.

It's a survey. If asked, I'd probably agree to a dedicated task force for dealing with extra-terrestrial threats - with tongue firmly in cheek.

UFO Evidence Surfaces

US has 'secret evidence of UFOs breaking sound barrier without a sonic boom and performing moves humans don't have the technology for', says Trump's Director of National Intelligence

Fascinating stuff. This is the only UFO photo I managed to take, way back in the days of not long ago.

Sunday 21 March 2021

A matter of presentation

This - 


Or this  -

As we see from the latest ONS chart, weekly observed all-cause deaths in all ages with the dominant circulating respiratory virus is now well below the five year baseline. No longer a problem then. No wonder people are demonstrating.

Saturday 20 March 2021


“I wish you wouldn’t keep all these things to yourself and then spring them on me,” I told him irritably.

“But you asked me for an opinion and I gave it, for what it’s worth. Mavin would wince if he had to wring a chicken’s neck.”

Christopher Bush - The Case of the Corporal's Leave (1945)

The quote is from a detective story of the Golden Age style although this one is later. Not a very quotable writer, but what struck me about this quote is that we could still use the idea behind it.

For example, all MPs could be required to wring a chicken’s neck without wincing before they actually become an MP. It could be a way to weed out the weeds. The chickens could be sent to the nearest food bank.

Not an entirely serious suggestion of course but we do appear to need some kind of test. The ability to think for example. The ability to withstand fads and fashions. The ability to identify and close worthless institutions such as the BBC. At the moment, far too many MPs would score Fail, Fail, Fail on these three tests alone.

Friday 19 March 2021

Something creepy this way comes



Charity, the meekest of the Christian graces, has been long since dethroned, and her place is taken by the blatant braggart Philanthropy, who does his good deeds in a most ostentatious manner, and loudly invites the world to see his generosity, and praise him for it.

Fergus Hume - Madame Midas (1888)

There is something desperately creepy about Red Nose Day. To my mind it is not only matters such as high staff costs, political correctness and a suspicion that it can be useful exposure for fading celebrities. 

It also comes across as a crude virtue-signalling game as used to sell so many totalitarian political moves. A sense that in spite of its charitable trappings, Red Nose Day is essentially the same political game.

The bestiality of war


Improved film quality brings home the horror of war even more forcefully than the original black and white. View on YouTube to read the story behind this video.  

Thursday 18 March 2021

Could be stowaways


To boldly go


Mars as seen by Nasa's Perseverance rover

Imagine you have acquired a spaceship capable of taking you across the universe at a speed far greater than the speed of light. Anything is possible in this imaginary spaceship. You can go anywhere in the universe and your spaceship has the capability to sustain and entertain you for the rest of your natural life.

The spaceship would have all kinds of instruments and data systems to tell you what was out there and resolve most cosmological mysteries. Apart from the philosophical mysteries perhaps – such as what am I doing here staring at Alpha Centauri?

Putting the doubts to one side you could first zip off to explore the Moon, then perhaps the hellish atmosphere of Venus, the derelict geology of Mars followed by the icy majesty of Jupiter. On past Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and maybe a brief landing on Pluto to admire the landscape of frozen nitrogen. Then hit warp drive and off into interstellar space, the stars then the galaxies.

The only drawback is that you cannot come back for reasons not mentioned in the sales brochure. However, knowing this would you still go?

I wouldn’t. Not only for the obvious reasons, but the entire universe is too narrow an interest. Almost all of what interests me, sustains the old grey matter, the enthusiasms and the needful social interactions is back here on Earth. I’d need to be an obsessive to climb into that spaceship. I don’t think I’m that.

There is another reason though. Out there in that unimaginable vastness which is indeed unimaginable, even as an atheist I think I may well encounter the terrible face of God. Such an imaginary encounter is possibly where belief and unbelief could meet but hardly ever do. Perhaps I’d find out why. I don’t fancy that either.

Wednesday 17 March 2021

The arch-enemy

In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one CAN remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small

Edith Wharton’s autobiography - A Backward Glance (1934)

Good advice and in later life the arch-enemy probably is sorrow. Progressives now try to make it worse by shoving guilt at us, the arch-enemy of the modern age. Guilt is the one they use to beat down centuries of solid achievement. Avoid both seems to be the message now. 

The iron logic of the thing

Sometimes a blog post idea flits through the grey matter but the briefest consideration says nope – too obvious. Yet even the obvious has to be brought out for an airing every now and then because it still has some significance.

For example – suppose establishment scientist Sir Brian Boffin expects some kind of epidemic to hit the UK in the near future. We’ll assume it is a viral epidemic via a virus not previously encountered although the family to which this virus belongs is well known.

Sir Brian's job as a scientific bureaucrat is to advise the government about the likely impact of an epidemic. Being a bureaucrat there is no way Sir Brian will risk being too specific. More importantly there is no way on earth that he will risk underestimating the impact, particularly the number of deaths. It is important to put the thing crudely in this case. Nuanced won’t do.

1. Politically, partial responsibility for underestimated deaths will become Sir Brian's partial responsibility. Partial responsibility for the real deaths of real people.

2. Politically, partial responsibility for overestimated deaths is nothing. Sir Brian's partial responsibility for deaths which did not happen perhaps, for people who survived.

This leaves us with one question to which we already know the answer. Which option does an establishment bureaucrat such as Sir Brian go for? Naturally we end up with gross exaggeration. Within certain broad limits, the wilder the exaggeration, the safer the approach. Expecting establishment bureaucrats to opt for anything else is hopelessly naïve.

The iron logic of the thing drives it. Drives them. Drives us.

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Diversely incompetent

People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.

Edmund Burke 

As many of us know, our society here in the UK is far more complex and subtle than progressives would have us believe. We are grounded in what Edmund Burke called the inherited wisdom of the social order. Yet problems arise if influential people do not accept the inheritance because they know better.

Our inherited wisdom ought to be one of our most fundamental protections against the disasters of social and political incompetence. A genuine case of lessons learned. Protection inherited from our parents, relatives, language, friends, school and history, all woven into a hugely complex social fabric from the day we were born. We build on it throughout our lives. We are supposed to pass it on.

History, geography, literature, WW1, WW2, climate, roads, bus stops, newspapers, habits, fashions, assumptions, Shakespeare, music, kings, queens, wars, Brown Bess, battles, celebrities, London, cities, towns, villages, flags, religions, shops, offices, factories, inventions, castles, stately homes, dereliction, industrial heritage, flora, fauna, stage coaches, footwear, brass bands, pottery, schools, games, sports, social class, diet, recreation, sun, snow, rain, hail, fog, laughter, jokes, theatres, TV, radio, music, cinema, newspapers, chip shops, pubs, drunks, furniture, cemeteries, churches, geology, dialects, pets, eccentrics, crime, policing, road signs, traffic, holidays, hotels, clubs, camping…

Even a comparatively simple list of social furniture illustrates how formidably complex and subtle our inherited social order must be. We cannot describe it comprehensively because it is not that kind of inheritance. It is something in our bones, something we could barely begin to describe and yet… And yet the trite phrase use it or lose it comes to mind. 

Burke explained something we now seem to have forgotten - a nation really is guided by its social history which is more than facts, figures, rulers, politics and money. To be guided by it we need to know it and respect the obvious outcome that it brought us to where we are. Or maybe where we once were. If we are to teach it to the next generation, then as far as schools go that could be a matter of putting language, literature and history before STEM subjects and everything before politics.

In other words we have to understand roughly how we got here. What happened rather than what ought to have happened according to modern ideologies. How our ancestors adapted to their world as they saw it rather than their world as ideologues see it.

It is remarkably easy to see how an obsession with diversity may have already induced social and political incompetence merely by closing off our access to the inherited wisdom of what was our social order. The BBC is diverse. The BBC is incompetent. Perhaps this is not a coincidence.

More secret police says Boris



Monday 15 March 2021

Yes - Mars would be a good place to start

Okay I’ll admit it – I’m not entirely sure what this piece in The Art Newspaper is trying to say. Something to do with the artistic ticking of diversity boxes obviously. Whether or not the whole work it is fit to be exhibited - I’m not sure but I'm no artist.

How racist is UK art education? A new report aims to find out

Freelands Foundation and Runnymede Trust have partnered up to investigate racial inequality in schools and universities...

"Black, Asian and ethnically diverse students face significant obstacles to studying art at every stage of their educational journey, not least because of a striking lack of representation in the curriculum and in art educators," says Elisabeth Murdoch, founder and chair of Freelands Foundation. "This has the ripple effect on the lack of representation throughout the arts sector: from entry level, technical, curatorial, to leadership."

Murdoch continues: "We will look at the ecosystem of art education as a whole to identify bold solutions that we believe will drive real change across the sector, creating greater opportunities for Black and ethnically diverse students to shape and enrich the visual art landscape of tomorrow."

To this end, the report will also provide real guidelines and teaching plans to improve equality within the sector at all stages. Goals that should be more than achievable, as the Black British artist and Freelands ambassador Sonia Boyce points out: "If we can go to Mars, we can send more kids to art school."

We All Need a Glimpse of the Evil Queen

About a week ago, a piece in Quillette by psychologist Jordan Peterson gave an interesting account of his work with a former client.

She was smart and literate, and showed me a philosophy essay she had written on the pointlessness not only of her life but life in general. She was unable to tolerate the responsibility, by all appearances, but also could not deal with the cruelty she saw everywhere around her. She was a vegan, for example, and that was directly associated with her acute physical terror of life. She was unable even to enter the aisles of a supermarket where meat was displayed. Where others saw the cuts they were going to prepare for their family, she saw rows of dead body parts. That vision only served to confirm her belief that life was, in essence, unbearable.

Peterson describes how he and his client overcame this particular fear by first visiting a local butcher.

Together, we designed an exposure-training program to help her overcome her fear of life. We first undertook to visit a nearby butcher shop. The shop owner and I had become friendly acquaintances over the years. After I explained my client’s situation to him (with her permission), I asked if I could bring her into his store, show her the meat counter, and then—when she was ready—bring her to the back to watch as his team cut up the carcasses that were delivered through the alleyway loading dock. He quickly agreed.

The whole piece is worth reading because the Evil Queen is the client's stepmother and she had to be dealt with too.

As with the Sleeping Beauty of fairy tales, my client’s family had failed to invite the Evil Queen, the terrible aspect of nature, into their child’s life. This left her completely unprepared for life’s essential harshness—the complications of sexuality and the requirement for everything that lives to devour other lives (and to be eventually subjected to the same fate). The Evil Queen made her reappearance at puberty—in the form of my client’s stepmother, whose character apparently turned 180 degrees—as well as in her own personal inability to deal with the responsibilities of maturity and stark obligations of biological survival. Like Sleeping Beauty, as well—as that tale is multistoried and deep in the way of ancient fairy tales, which can be thousands of years old—she needed to be awakened by the forces of exploration, courage, and fortitude (often represented by the redeeming prince, but which she found within herself).

I particularly like this part of Peterson's diagnosis in the final paragraph above - her own personal inability to deal with the responsibilities of maturity and stark obligations of biological survival. That's the one which stays with me because we see it all the time. 

Saturday 13 March 2021

Guess the ending

Hello All – as you may assume from this email, I arrived intact so the journey down was as you expected. Heavy traffic but no real snarl-ups and in the end I made good time. The hotel you found for me is fine thank you. I have a view of the sea as promised - not quite on the seafront but set back in its own grounds. Decidedly old-fashioned and almost genteel if one is allowed to be genteel these days.

I even took myself out for a stroll on the seafront before unpacking. A fairly typical seaside spot with sand, shingle, cliffs and so on. I'll not bore you with an attempt at descriptive prose which in any event is beyond me as you know.

Had coffee in the hotel lounge which was good enough although I’ve had better. The service was adequate although they seemed to think I ought to be stuffing myself with cakes and whatnot. Cakes in the afternoon – good grief. After coffee I finally came up to my room to unpack, thus proving to you that I am perfectly capable of slowing down and taking things easy for a while.

One little incident I must tell you about – there is a door in my room which leads to the adjoining room. Not uncommon in these old places I believe. The door did not appear to be closed properly so I gave it an exploratory nudge and found it was indeed unlocked.

It swung open to reveal another room exactly like mine. Ha - what a surprise I don’t think. I was about to close the door and retreat into my own room when I noticed a tan coloured leather suitcase on the bed exactly like mine.

I’m disappointed - I thought you said my suitcase was an absolutely exclusive make. I'm joshing of course, but you will never guess what I did next. Yes – I took a quick survey of the contents of that not at all exclusive suitcase. It was half open you see. By the way, I hope you did not jump to the conclusion that I rummaged around the contents of a stranger’s suitcase.

From what I could see the contents were remarkably similar to my own, or at least what I assumed you have packed for me. Apart from that a further sign of occupancy was a paperback book on the bedside table. Here is another coincidence though – it was the exact book you bought for me and said I should read as relaxation. You know – that popular detective yarn you optimistically claimed I would enjoy.

There was nothing in the wardrobe as yet, although by the bed were a pair of shoes uncannily similar to my brown brogues, but I soon felt ridiculous poking around another room. I returned to my own room and firmly closed the connecting door. It locked with a loud click so must have been left open accidentally. Cleaners failed to close it properly perhaps.

Before I click 'Send', I may as well tell you that I have decided not to go ahead with the Panama deal. I don’t like it and that is the end of the matter as far as I am concerned. We should never have entertained it. In deference to your wishes that I put work out of my mind for a few days I'll not raise the subject again until I return but it is only fair to let you know my decision.

On a lighter note and after reading a few pages of that better than expected detective yard, it occurred to me that my fingerprints are all over the place in the adjoining room. Ha ha – I hope foul play does not descend on the hotel. I do not wish to explain myself to some gimlet-eyed sleuth.

That's all until tomorrow.


Friday 12 March 2021

Bouncy Beeb

The other day I was sitting in a hospital outpatients waiting room for my annual scan. The hospital was very quiet with lots of spaces in the car park. Only one other person before me in outpatients and the whole job was done in less than a third of the usual time. Obviously not over-worked but I’m not complaining.

During my brief sojourn in the waiting room I watched part of a BBC programme about waste and the wonderful things being done to recycle it. The programme was presented by a bouncy young woman whizzing around asking people what they were doing and telling us how amazing it all was.

Routine stuff but as I no longer watch BBC I found myself wondering why they bothered with a presenter. In spite of the bouncy approach she was clearly not particularly knowledgeable about the subject. She also came across as intrusive with that impossible to erase hint of condescension.

A narrator could have worked better, but the BBC still seems to have a fixation on making presenters into celebrities. The overall effect is to dumb down almost any subject. It reminded me of tabloid journalism. Keep down the word count, avoid technicalities, keep it bright and breezy.

In my mind I compared the two possibilities. One tabloid style programme with bouncy presenter and one with a professional in the field. I watch lots of YouTube videos which vary enormously in quality and professionalism and that BBC programme did not come across as premier league material. Not when compared with the best online videos. Instead it came across as rather dated and rather amateurish.

Dated because the fixation on celebrity presenters is dated. Amateurish because it hasn’t moved on and is decidedly inferior to the best that YouTube offers. The BBC has been doing things this way for decades, but even the bounciest presenter cannot compete with an articulate professional or even with an enthusiastic and articulate amateur. The contrast has become too obvious.

Thursday 11 March 2021

An unholy tacit compact


They began by accusing one another in round terms, but each found himself so vulnerable that by an unholy tacit compact they agreed to exonerate one another.

Anthony Hope - A Change of Air (1890)

It's a problem with habitual mendacity in party politics. Once integrity has gone, constructive debate goes with it.

Wednesday 10 March 2021

One heck of a lot worse


COVID-19 deaths per million 7 day rolling average - UK and Europe

COVID-19: Test and Trace boss Dido Harding defends 'essential' £37bn service

Dido Harding said the service was an "an essential component in the fight against COVID" and promised it would be carrying on...

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended Test and Trace in an interview with Sky News, saying the pandemic would have been "one heck of a lot worse" without it.

Hard to see how the UK coronavirus debacle could have been  "one heck of a lot worse". If anything, it is reasonable to adopt a working assumption that the UK government response probably made things one heck of a lot worse. How else do we explain the miserable numbers compared to most of the rest of the world? 

Tuesday 9 March 2021

The feckless snail

A pleasant day today here in Derbyshire so we buzzed off to Matlock for a coffee and lemon drizzle cake. The only police we saw were attending a minor car accident so maybe the ludicrous enforcement nonsense is behind us. Or maybe not – we’ll see.

It was fairly quiet in Matlock, but there were a few oldies around and a fair number of parents with pre-school kids. All good to see, yet lifting lockdown measures at the pace of a feckless snail is bound make the damage even worse. Unfortunately we are well past the point where it became apparent that some degree of permanent damage may be intentional.

Bearing down on expectations linked to changes required by the ten point plan – this appears to be the most obvious lockdown goal so far. Unless voters come to realise that all main political parties broadly support some kind of green totalitarian politics, then this form of soft repression will continue. We’ll probably see another move in the game this autumn or maybe sooner if an opportunity arises.

Overall conclusion on the coronavirus debacle? After a very pleasant and uplifting morning in the park including coffee and lemon drizzle cake? It’s this – we are governed by some seriously unpleasant bastards. Plus some fools and some who are both. But we knew that.

As long as he crawled

Well he knew that in love, man must give, must let himself be fooled and that the only way to approach a woman was on all fours. And he had crawled at intervals, and as long as he crawled everything had gone well, but when he had finally straightened up, that was the end of it, always with a multitude of reproaches that he had been false, that he had dissembled submission, that he had never loved, and so on.

August Strindberg - On the Seaboard (1890)

Monday 8 March 2021

Deep Thinkers


A new artwork


Our local art gallery has acquired an unusual work of art titled The Spare Part, an oil painting which appears to be quite recent judging by the pristine canvas. It is an unusual work for our gallery to acquire, being unsigned and by an unknown artist. 

Although the work does appear to be of a reasonably high standard, the whole thing is already a little flaky and the services of a professional restorer may be required at some point.

However there has been a considerable level of interest in The Spare Part although as usual in such cases, interest is likely to wane soon enough.

Only the bum changes

Idol Worship
The Way to Preferment

A satirical cartoon on the way Robert Walpole dominated the political landscape by 1740. Two young men have to kiss his vast backside before being admitted to the eighteenth century corridors of power via St James’ Palace. As far as I know the originator of the cartoon is uncertain.

We don’t have to do that now but one could say that we are now expected to kiss the backside of certain institutions and political ideologies. Clapping the NHS for example. Not the same but not so different either.

Sunday 7 March 2021

A solemn pledge to abstain from truth

Gary Saul Morson has an interesting piece in The American Conservative on a new book detailing the psychic conflicts in the Soviet Writers' Union -
The Soviet Writers' Union and Its Leaders: Identity and Authority under Stalin - by Carol Any.

What exactly was the Soviet Writers’ Union? Like all unions in the USSR, it existed not to pressure authorities on behalf of its members but, quite the contrary, to transmit party orders. If writers obeyed, they earned material rewards out of the reach of ordinary citizens; but if they did not, they would be humiliated or worse. Proclaimed in 1932, the union began with 2,200 members. By the time Stalin died in 1953, 2,000 had been arrested, three-quarters of whom were executed or perished in labor camps...

Writers, like all cadres, were expected to be permeated by the spirit of “partiinost,” party-mindedness, which meant that, ideally, their will coincided entirely with that of the party. There was no room for the private or personal, and frivolous literary forms like love poetry or pessimistic ones like tragedy were frowned upon. Artistry was, at best, secondary to ideological correctness. Cultivating individual talent earned one reproof for “Mozartism” (ever more pejorative “-isms” were always being discovered). Literary critics, who wrote scathing attacks on works that deviated ever so slightly, lorded it over creative talents...

"ever more pejorative “-isms” were always being discovered" - sounds almost too familiar doesn't it?

“Socialist Realism,” the regime’s official aesthetic, entailed the doctrine of “two truths.” When Vasily Grossman wrote to Maxim Gorky—a sort of patron saint of Soviet literature—for help in publishing a novel, he argued that it portrayed Soviet life “truthfully.” Gorky replied that beyond mere empirical truth, there was a higher truth, the essential nature of things according to Marxism-Leninism. Bourgeois writers see only what is before their eyes; Soviet writers must detect the seeds of the glorious Communist future...

Solzhenitsyn referred to Socialist Realism as “a solemn pledge to abstain from truth,” and gifted writers sought ways around it.

A lesson telling us that although we have no Stalin to contend with, censorship and repression are never absent. Unless we defend free speech as a line in the sand we are bound to discover among us, people prepared to make “a solemn pledge to abstain from truth”.

Faded purple and dusky gold

The long room was beautiful: faded, even shabby, but beautiful. The deep-rose curtains, the soft wine-coloured carpet, the wallpaper of dove colour — all were shabby. Between the gilt frames of the pictures there were, once and again, little tears in the paper. The two big armchairs, one on each side of the fireplace, covered with heavy rose damask, were worn on the arms. There were tall lacquer screens, a long bookcase filled with old tattered volumes; three tall white vases filled with chrysanthemums. Everything was old: even the flowers seemed ancient. But the effect of the room, softly lit, was beautiful, colours dim and deep, rose and faded purple and dusky gold.

Hugh Walpole - The Sea Tower (1939)

It’s an old and rather upper class idea of domestic beauty perhaps, but one I could identify with. Especially if we could afford a place with mullioned windows and lots of old oak, the kind of place Walpole probably had in mind.

Take a gander at Rightmove and you won’t find many domestic interiors of this description even though it could be copied. Apart from the tears in the wallpaper perhaps. Not easy to do that artistically. The sterile look seems to be far more fashionable if Rightmove is any guide.

Saturday 6 March 2021

What happened to a kick in the teeth?

Large numbers of staff could leave nursing when the pandemic is over after being offered a 1% pay rise, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.

Patricia Marquis from the RCN told Times Radio it made staff in England feel they were not valued and would worsen the NHS's recruitment issues...

Ms Marquis, south-east regional director of the RCN, said "significant numbers" of nurses were planning to leave and "this slap in the face from the government really has just reinforced their belief that they are not valued by either the government or perhaps some of the public in the way they would want to be".

A slap in the face eh? More genteel than a kick in the teeth I suppose.

Friday 5 March 2021

A different kind of political world


Lots of common sense from Neil Oliver. When did it become uncommon? We'll have to stop using the term. 

No rules, no cautions, only purpose

Mrs. Field looked him in the face with eyes so intent that they had the sightless determination of the witless. In that flushing moment her intelligence was hidden and hooded by her emotion. She was not insane but she had sprung into the region where there are no rules, no cautions, only purpose.

Hugh Walpole - The Sea Tower (1939)

For those of us not consumed by a particular purpose it is not at all easy to understand those who are. If we encounter the obsessive pursuit of some purpose we usually focus on the apparent goal of the purpose. Sometimes it seems to be a fairly benign goal such as the pursuit of sporting excellence or stamp collecting.

Sometimes, especially in the political arena, the goal of the purpose is often hidden or unclear although guesswork is tempting. In political cases, an obsessive purpose with a somewhat unclear goal tells us to focus on the obsessive nature of the purpose rather than the goal. Pay attention to the obsession - the real goal is likely to be covert and not benign.

We know this but are usually side-tracked by the claimed goal in trying to explain what appears to be witless behaviour by intelligent people. This is a mismatch between purpose and claimed goal – so we should see it as a mismatch. In these cases it is more useful to focus on the inherent dangers of obsessive political purpose rather than trying to pick apart what goal lies behind the purpose.

Obsessive purpose would not be a major social problem were it not for the commonplace fact that the primary purpose of a few may become the secondary purpose of a mass following. We are prone to latch on to a purpose when it is significantly stronger than our own. This of course is leadership, but with any form of leadership, the obsessive nature of the purpose should be a clue, whatever the purported goal.

The coronavirus debacle is an example where there is clearly a demented sense of obsessive purpose behind what is claimed to be an unprecedented public health issue. It isn’t unprecedented. It is obsessive. We are quite clearly being drawn into the region where there are no rules, no cautions, only purpose.

Thursday 4 March 2021

Spot the difference

Slightly modified version

It has been said that the only way to civilize a people is to form in them habits of industry. Judged by this principle, the British are less civilized now than formerly. True, their constitutional indolence is excessive; but surely, if the spirit of woke is among them, so unwoke a vice ought to be, at least, partially remedied. But the reverse is the fact. Instead of acquiring new occupations, old ones have been discontinued. As previously remarked, the manufacture of anything is nearly obsolete in many parts of the island. So, too, with that of the native tools and domestic utensils; very few of which are now fabricated, since the superiority of Chinese wares has been made so evident.

Unmodified version

It has been said that the only way to civilize a people is to form in them habits of industry. Judged by this principle, the Tahitians are less civilized now than formerly. True, their constitutional indolence is excessive; but surely, if the spirit of Christianity is among them, so unchristian a vice ought to be, at least, partially remedied. But the reverse is the fact. Instead of acquiring new occupations, old ones have been discontinued. As previously remarked, the manufacture of tappa is nearly obsolete in many parts of the island. So, too, with that of the native tools and domestic utensils; very few of which are now fabricated, since the superiority of European wares has been made so evident.

Herman Melville - Omoo (1847)

Wednesday 3 March 2021

The next pox-in-the-making

Mercatornet has a gloomy piece by Robert Weissberg on the toxic ideas corrupting today’s universities.

The toxic ideas that have corrupted today’s universities all began as tiny, obscure musings before escaping from the laboratories. They may have started with an unpublished paper or two, a request for modest institutional funding, or an informal discussion group. Eventually, they earn a panel at a regional disciplinary convention and an experimental course. In a few years, the “little idea” has metastasized into a full-blown intellectual plague.

Particularly disturbing is that the intellectual soundness of this “little idea” has no relationship to its burgeoning appeal—the opposite may be true: the wackier it is, the more alluring for career-minded academics chasing “the next big thing.” How else can one explain critical race theory, academic-style feminism, the deconstruction mania, and, alas, much more?

Intellectual sanity requires monitoring the first signs of destructive idiocy, just as the CDC tracks the early signs of an epidemic. Only then can the infant nonsense be strangled in the cradle. Imagine the intellectual mischief we could have avoided if critical race theory died an early, peaceful, obscure death.

That said, here’s the next big evil: “hate studies.”...

I recently encountered this pox-in-the-making in my Bard College alumnae magazine (the Bardian, Fall 2020), which almost incidentally mentioned the Bard Center for the Study of Hate. “Hate” has long been a professional interest of mine, so I looked a little deeper. Lo and behold, Bard’s war on “hate” is a nascent industry that already has a website, webinars, a journal, courses with reading lists, and academic specialists. Rest assured that savvy professors are soliciting naive foundations to combat this alleged evil currently bedeviling America.

As Prof Weissberg says in the article, this is just another academic racket. To my mind we could close a large percentage of university departments both in the US and here in the UK and see a net gain in academic quality.

Tuesday 2 March 2021

Wodehouse on brain power

Forget psychology – P.G. Wodehouse had it sussed as these few quotes conclusively demonstrate –

It was the old, old story, I supposed. A man’s brain whizzes along for years exceeding the speed limit, and something suddenly goes wrong with the steering-gear and it skids and comes a smeller in the ditch…

What I mean to say is this, I’m all for rational enjoyment and so forth, but I think a chappie makes himself conspicuous when he throws soft-boiled eggs at the electric fan…

I tried to think of something to say, but nothing came. A chappie has to be a lot broader about the forehead than I am to handle a jolt like this. I strained the old bean till it creaked, but between the collar and the hair parting nothing stirred…

Sir Roderick Glossop, Honoria’s father, is always called a nerve specialist, because it sounds better, but everybody knows that he’s really a sort of janitor to the looney-bin.

Practically every posh family in the country has called him in at one time or another, and I suppose that, being in that position—I mean constantly having to sit on people’s heads while their nearest and dearest ‘phone to the asylum to send round the wagon—does tend to make a chappie take what you might call a warped view of humanity…

He was fairly tall and fairly broad, and he had the most enormous head, with practically no hair on it, which made it seem bigger and much more like the dome of St. Paul’s. I suppose he must have taken about a nine or something in hats. Shows what a rotten thing it is to let your brain develop too much…

“One is fighting a losing battle, I fear, sir, but I did venture to indicate to Mr. Little a course of action which might prove of advantage. I recommended him to busy himself with good works.”
“Good works?”
“About the village, sir. Reading to the bedridden—chatting with the sick—that sort of thing, sir. We can but trust that good results will ensue.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” I said, doubtfully. “But, by gosh, if I was a sick man I’d hate to have a looney like young Bingo coming and gibbering at my bedside.”

Monday 1 March 2021

A storm may be brewing

Mercatornet has a piece on an issue which is familiar enough but a belated storm of reaction may be brewing. 

The battle in the US Congress over transgenderism and minor children could potentially sink the Biden Administration’s first major piece of legislation, the so-called “Equality Act”...

During a contentious confirmation hearing February 25 for the assistant secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, Republican senators vigorously pushed back against the proposed nominee, a “transgender woman” named Dr Rachel Levine – a 63-year-old doctor, once known as Richard Levine, who “transitioned” in 2011...

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), himself a medical doctor, demanded to know if Dr Levine supported allowing minor children, with or without the consent of their parents, to use puberty-blocking drugs or undergo permanent surgical removal of their sexual organs.

Paul pointed out that virtually every medical and human rights organization in the world, including the World Health Organization, opposes the practice of what he called “genital mutilation” even when undergone voluntarily in societies that openly accept it.

Bismarck may have described politics as the art of the possible, but as we now know, it isn't necessarily the art of the sane. Yet maybe sanity will prevail - who knows? I'm not betting on it though.

Headline we may yet see


Hunted eh?


Interesting choice of word that. Apparently the hunted miscreant did not complete the correct paperwork. A sign of the times perhaps.

Health officials are trying to trace one person in England who has been infected with a concerning variant of coronavirus first found in Brazil.

They are one of six cases of the P1 variant found in the UK in February.

The person is understood to have used a home testing kit but did not complete a registration form - prompting an appeal for anyone without a result from a test on 12 or 13 February to come forward.