Monday 31 May 2021

Apart from that

We visited Bakewell a few days ago. A pleasant day and a pleasant drive with the top down followed by a bacon roll and coffee sitting by the river in the sunshine. It’s something we do quite often although we don't usually indulge in a bacon roll and we usually put the boots on and go for a walk. But not this time. We’ll share one bacon roll between us next time – they were gigantic.

Bakewell has always seemed pretty keen on the coronavirus lockdown, right from when it all kicked off last year. Social distancing notices all over the place, arrows on the pavement, cordoned off slices of road to widen the pavements, main car park closed. Keep visitors away seemed to be the official message. The town must depend quite heavily on its visitors but that’s officialdom for you - insulated.

The bossy street paraphernalia was still there, looking silly and irrelevant in the sunshine. Like the debris of last night’s party. A few strange people were still walking around in the open air wearing their masks and even those batty face visors. Yet for the most part it feels as if the whole sorry mess is widely viewed as just about over. Perhaps. We can but hope. We've done our bit. Let's look on the bright side. Don't forget your mask.

Wandering around Bakewell it felt as if nothing really happened apart from the fanatically intense propaganda, the silliness and something resembling a worse than usual flu season. As if we followed the rules, listened to the scientists on TV, did the right thing and came through it okay. Apart from a lost democracy, lost sanity, lost sense of personal responsibility, lost dignity.

Apart from that.

What - no risk assessment?

Two soldiers building electric wire fences and concrete walls on the Sino-North Korean border near Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, recently died after inadvertently stepping on a minefield, Daily NK has learned.

The soldiers were part of a contingent of military engineers building the foundations for the electric wire fences and concrete walls in an area five meters away from a minefield, a source in the province told Daily NK yesterday.

According to the source, the two soldiers who died were deployed to the region in early May and had been so quickly sent to the area that they had not been given safety instructions related to working in areas near minefields.

Sunday 30 May 2021

Swimming through the crap

Calls for stretch of River Avon to be given bathing water status as UK faces 'endemic' pollution problem

Experts say the UK has an "endemic" problem with river pollution due to agriculture and sewage from storm overflow...

Only 14% of Britain's rivers meet Good Ecological Status and that figure has not changed since 2009, according to the Environment Agency. It compares poorly to France, where hundreds of rivers already have bathing water status.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of The Rivers Trust, identified two main problems with pollution in UK rivers: agriculture and sewage from storm overflow.

This is my field and as far as I can see there is no reason why some stretches of river shouldn’t be suitable for swimming. However, if we are aiming for pristine, unpolluted rivers, perhaps we should first remember why the local swimming pool is dosed with chlorine.

As far as polluted rivers go, we are where we are after centuries of industrial and population growth. Sewage works do a good job of cleaning up our effluent, but to purify it to a level suitable for bathing we may need to bolt something like a potable water works on the end. Or just chlorinate the sewage works effluent and kill everything downstream.

As ever there are huge costs whatever the solution. To my mind it feels like yet another of those middle class fantasies like net zero carbon. One those fantasies the rest of us are supposed to pay for. Yet there is a cheaper solution, we could simply stop using toilets.

Many of us could simply dig a latrine in the garden. Schools could dig up their playing fields and create huge educational latrines. People in flats, apartments shops and offices could have a problem though, especially in cities where there are no open fields suited to latrine conversion. Parks could possibly be of some use here.

Hotels without toilets do not sound appealing and those without extensive grounds would have real difficulties. Chamber pots may be the only answer. Could lead to a boom in the pottery industry though. 

One obvious problem is that swimming in rivers could suddenly become enormously popular with those who live nearby. For obvious reasons.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Sounds fair enough


“$5 FEE ADDED TO ORDERS PLACED WHILE WEARING A FACE MASK,” read the poster on the glass window at Fiddlehead’s Cafe in Mendocino. A second sign with the same memo was located by the register.

Just below the large print were two additional notes on the poster that warned guests if they were "caught bragging" about their vaccines “an additional $5 fee” would be added to their bill. The sign claims the fees will be donated to local charities assisting domestic abuse victims. (Previously, Fiddlehead’s Cafe had a second sign on its storefront that’s circulated on social media and read “Get your free COVID-19 vaccine card here!” The sign has since been removed.

Friday 28 May 2021

We'll miss them when they are gone.


Hooray for eccentrics. We'll miss them when they are gone. Which could be a couple of decades at the present rate.

Thursday 27 May 2021

Decline of the National Trust

How did the National Trust end up in this sorry state?

In the heritage world, David has just beaten Goliath. This week, Tim Parker, chairman of the National Trust, resigned after seven years in the role – and just 24 hours after a rebel group of members launched a bid to depose him at the annual general meeting.

We cancelled our membership because in our eyes it isn't worth the money. Expensive mediocrity all over the place.

Restore Trust – of which I am a member – was only founded last month. It already has 10,000 supporters and a fighting fund of £50,000. It was founded to restore the trust to its original aims – to concentrate on conservation, an aesthetic experience, a sense of place, a feeling of welcome and an apolitical ethos. It has claimed a major scalp in the shape of Tim Parker.

I hope Restore Trust succeeds, but we won't be going back. For example the observation below rings a very loud bell with me - in our experience National Trust baby language was everywhere.

It’s not just the lack of attention to detail; baby language was everywhere at trust properties. At Osterley Park, the elegant Adam house on the fringes of west London, the servants’ quarters were decorated with a sign saying: “It was the scullery maid’s job to empty and clean the chamber pots every morning. A very smelly job.” A tree stump at Hughenden had a sign next to it, reading: “Please do not climb on me.”

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Fool or charlatan

Thousands of people died needlessly as a result of government mistakes in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Dominic Cummings has said.

The PM's former top aide said Boris Johnson was "unfit for the job", claiming he had ignored scientific advice and wrongly delayed lockdowns.

He also claimed Matt Hancock should have been fired for lying - something denied by the health secretary.

"Tens of thousands of people died, who didn't need to die," Mr Cummings added.

Mr Cummings cannot possibly know that last statement to be true. The UK pandemic obviously cannot be run again under a different policy. It's a ludicrous claim.

Neither do we have enough experience of seasonal rises and falls in  viral infections to know it it might have been true at the time. To my mind that makes him a fool or a charlatan and he isn't a fool, although his abilities do appear to be overestimated.

Is that good or bad?



A Tale of Lockdown Folk

Suppose we invent a fictional UK Prime Minister with an eye to producing a film script loosely based on real events during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll call our fictional Prime Minister Matt who became Prime Minister at roughly the same time as Boris Johnson.

To kick off we’ll jump straight into a flashback and ask Prime Minister Matt why he went for a lockdown policy when faced with the coronavirus pandemic. Suppose the script as currently written requires the PM to be strongly influenced by three fictional scientists we’ll call Dr Ben, Professor Tim and Professor Hugh plus a tough political advisor we’ll call Frank.

Lurking in the background is a rabidly negative national TV channel, a curious mix of flinty woke puritanism and senile depravity. In which case, external pressures already suggest that our fictional Prime Minister may struggle to play any real part in pandemic policy apart from acting as its mouthpiece.

We could say that policy formulation was entirely divorced from democratic control, but that’s an aside. We may or may not use it in the final version of the script. Someone could shout it and bang the table while being ignored.

Moving on, we could attempt to write some depth into our fictional account of high level pandemic policy making. We could delve into motives, professional expertise, disagreements, furious rows, shouting, slammed doors, the role of dominant personalities and insatiable media hunger for drama. Fly on the wall stuff.

We could also probe the wider political process by asking how Dr Ben, Professor Tim and Professor Hugh came to see lockdown as the only possible pandemic policy. We could explore the professional reasoning behind their expert advice, the influence of colleagues and other minor characters plus the edgy political input from Frank and the tight group of people he listens to. Not forgetting that woke TV channel of course.

In other words, the fictional lockdown policy is derived from influences well beyond Dr Ben, Professor Tim, Professor Hugh and even Frank. None of them climbed to their current positions in a vacuum. They all absorbed influences from their social and professional circles and became products of those influences. We’ll call some of the more important of those secondary fictional influences Dr Joe, Professor Stella and Hardly University. May as well throw in a difficult childhood somewhere too. And some sexism.

Even though this is all fiction, at some point we may wish to tease out the deeper reasoning behind the lockdown policy instead of cataloguing influences. The problem is we keep extending the catalogue of influences and it is not clear how we get away from that. How do we dig deeper instead of slapping on the drama with a trowel?

How about sex? Well we may as well bung in a couple of bedroom scenes, but as we know that’s just to lift the movie rating. We still don’t know how Dr Joe, Professor Sue and Hardly University really came to play such a key backroom role in the UK coronavirus policy which cost billions of pounds.

The End.

That’s the end of this fictional account of the source of UK coronavirus policy. We’ve outlined the story but there is no tidy ending. There is no ultimate answer to the original question - why did Prime Minister Matt go for a lockdown policy? We don’t need that though, the story hangs together as a drama without the really difficult questions being answered.

Of course, anyone who wishes to could easily expand this fictional account with some deeper analysis of scientific findings, published research, seminars, epidemiological models, the psychology and personalities of key actors, social pressures, economic considerations and so on. But this is fiction, not the real life drama of Boris Johnson’s actual role as UK Prime Minister.

In which case we have another question. What is the difference between the fictional account and what actually happened in real life? We would have to follow much the same kind of narrative with real people, real research and real institutions. As with the fictional account, it is not clear how the catalogue of influences comes to an end. It is not clear how we could ever come to an unambiguous conclusion as an answer to our original question – why did the UK Prime Minister go for a lockdown policy?

We could quite easily formulate a real world answer just as we could formulate a fictional answer in the fictional version. We could formulate any number of answers in both cases. The problem seem to be that there is little difference between the real and the fictional.

We hear that Boris initially favoured a far less stringent policy, but most people probably would at that time. There appears to be no deeper story to be teased out of a morass of information. A deeper story doesn’t exist and no amount of psychological speculation will give us anything beyond psychological speculation.

There is no ultimate personal reason why Boris Johnson opted for a lockdown policy other than a simple story of external pressures and political necessity. It would have pushed anyone else in the same direction, whatever people may claim now.

The lockdown decision effectively emerged of its own accord, as the only politically plausible narrative. A far less damaging approach was not tried because it was obviously not politically plausible. Not in the UK. There is nothing deeper to be extracted. It was all based on the throw of a heavily loaded dice.

The lockdown decision was essentially shallow because we are all essentially shallow. Boris and co. are not likely to have waded through hundreds of pages of scientific discussion, graphs and projections. An hour or so of discussion was probably enough. That is not to say that the policy took an hour to formulate, but at executive summary level that would have been enough if we extract the human need for reassurance. There may have been buckets of that.

But in the end it was a shallow decision because it had to be. They mostly are. We lose billions and wreck cultures quite casually. And we’ll do it again.

How depressing it all is

Covid-19: Government backtracks over travel advice and England's vaccine rollout extended

After advising people not to travel into and out of eight areas in England worst hit by Indian coronavirus variant, the government has now said travel should be minimised, clarifying local restrictions are not being imposed. The government came under fire on Tuesday over the initial advice for Bolton, Blackburn, Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside. Although advice on avoiding all non-essential travel has changed, around two million people in those affected areas are still being asked to meet outdoors and stay two metres apart from anyone in other households, wherever possible.

How depressing it all is. It is not likely that this level of government intrusion into our lives will ever be rolled back. That much has been obvious for a long time. The general shape of government intrusion may change but the overall level  of control probably not. 

Protest has been too muted and government coronavirus policy has been too politically successful to be abandoned now. The ratchet has moved on by too many clicks. Clearly many voters do not object to being lied to and bossed about. Even the miserable BBC seems set to survive. Sad, but it seems to be so.

I don't think much of this May weather either. The global warming crowd were lying too. Oh well - soon be time for a coffee and a biscuit. 

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Neolithic News

By our Neolithic affairs correspondent Ug Nadiar

Clan Council is in a turmoil because it has been suggested that our traditional way of welcoming visits by the Great Cough is not favoured by the Great Cough himself. An obviously preposterous viewpoint but it gets worse.

It is suggested in certain extremist quarters that staying in our huts, wearing our hoods and with sacred green logs piled onto the fire is not a mark of veneration towards the Great Cough. It is further asserted that this form of worship is unsatisfactory merely because certain particularly favoured huts sometimes burn to the ground during a Great Cough visit.

Clearly the Great Cough allows favoured huts to burn to the ground as a form of approval. Usually these are older huts simply because the Great Cough is known to favour those with well-seasoned timbers. The huts burn down as a mark of respect to Great Cough, thus allowing privileged clan members to offer themselves in the ultimate sacrifice of divine scorchment.

Other clan member inside the burned hut are gloriously maimed as yet another mark of Great Cough favour. Those who dare to sneak out of the burning hut without their hoods and without so much as a singed eyebrow are of course banished for a hand worth of days and nights as a mark of apology to the Great Cough.

Look at the way the Great Cough graciously visited holy Mugg in his private latrine. Look at the way it sealed him in with the burning latrine roof while holy Mugg was engaged in latrine fireplace difficulties. Certain wagging tongues suggested that he should not wear his hood and have a fire in his latrine, but most people see whole incident as a fine tribute to a fairly blameless life.

Great Cough deniers – and yes I am comfortable calling them that even though it almost sounds obscene. These deniers have the effrontery to claim that we would be better off in the open air when the Great Cough deigns to favour our clan with a visit. They say that being gloriously burned in a hut full of smoke is not a mark of respect at all, but a sign of our foolishness.

Clan Council should only decide one way here. The issue is settled and no further discussion is required. Deniers must be forced to stay outside their huts without a hood and must contemplate their foolishness when the Great Cough next favours us with a visit. Nothing else will do. The issue is settled.

Too young

A Labour MP has said she has decided to take a "step back" from her work because she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Nadia Whittome said she has been advised by her doctor to take several weeks off for her health to improve.

The Nottingham East MP said the decision was "incredibly difficult" and one she feels "very sad" about.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wished Ms Whittome "all the best" in her recovery and praised her "bravery".

To my mind, at 23 Ms Whittome was far too young to become an MP and those who selected her bear some responsibility for doing so. She also comes across as silly, but unfortunately that does not appear to be a good enough reason to disqualify her from Parliament. Her age and lack of experience surely is.  

Monday 24 May 2021

Lots of meetings - that's the answer

Belarus flight stop is an international scandal - EU

Will EU sanctions go further this time?

Sanctions are a popular tool in diplomacy. They sound tough, often cost little and, by and large, don’t involve loss of life.

But will the measures being discussed in Brussels this evening make a difference?

I don't want to seem alarmist, but these EU discussions could be even more dynamic and effective than the vaccination deliberations. Belarus will be watching developments with trepidation.

A rose by any other name

The UK government has finally moved on the vexed issue of parents who burden their children for life with inappropriate names. For example we have this from Gleena Simmins, mother of three year old toddler Treezer Green.

“What I never realised at the time was that the name Treezer would cause such problems. Before he were born like, somebody on social media told me it was the name of an ancient environment warrior who looked after trees and animals and such. They said it was a really ancient name from like before Hitler. I never knew they made it up. I unfriended them dead quick but it’s like too late.”

There are other examples, such as this one from Moorla Snipe, mother of two year old toddler Dunno Mait.

“I just liked the name Dunno because it sounded all friendly like and I thought it might help at school later on. Like at football matches where they call each other names like Johnno or Robbo and suchlike. I thought it was a good idea.”

There are numerous other examples such as Blymee O’Reilly where misguided parents have given way to a momentary enthusiastic desire to assign their son or daughter a striking name, just as they assign a gender.

With this in mind the UK government has sponsored initial research into an app designed to screen out inappropriate names and names which could cause future embarrassment. It is not the government’s intention to assign official names, although it is thought that in a very small number of cases this may be necessary.

Sunday 23 May 2021

Who chooses the experts?

Do you suppose that anyone else sees you as I see you, any one else alive or dead? We all of us meet one another uniquely and that meeting is only a shadow of the only real meeting we have — our meeting with ourselves

Hugh Walpole - John Cornelius (1937)

You are unique, I am unique, today is unique, tomorrow will be unique. Whatever we try to do about it and however we try to mitigate or ignore its effects, uniqueness weaves complexity into our daily lives. We get over it in numerous ways from generalisations to stereotypes, from slogans to doctrines, principles, beliefs, ideologies and many more useful subterfuges.

Or we listen to experts who offer us their generalisations. Yet in a sense, experts become a generalisation when presented to us as its human face. Especially when selected by governments, media or a whole range of interested parties including interested individuals. Experts say, climate scientist overwhelmingly agree, experts predict, an expert study has shown, this guy has made a video.

In the public arena there is often no easy escape from situations where experts are selected by those who are not experts. Experts are unique individuals, their expertise was uniquely acquired, their expert views are unique, their careers individually unique and so are their ambitions, personalities and indeed their politics.

As we know, when we are offered experts as the human face of a political generalisation, we should check both. We should check the experts and the basis of their generalisations. As we also know, many people don’t bother checking. Yet experts are unique, fallible individuals and that’s a generalisation worth hanging on too.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? also applies to experts.

Blimey - that would mean imminent collapse

BBC is ‘one journalistic lapse’ from falling apart, ex-chairman Lord Grade warns

Lord Grade of Yarmouth, who advises the Government on public service broadcasting, says the Martin Bashir scandal shows “the time for hand-wringing is well past”, and calls for an overhaul of the culture at the corporation.

Are we looking at lessons learned here?

“The time for hand-wringing is well past. The time for a reformed culture led by governance reform is now, before another journalistic “lapse” brings the whole house down.

“Journalism from the BBC is too important to our democratic blood stream to risk another serious error.”

No - not even that. 

Saturday 22 May 2021

Maybe the BBC does cause brain rot

DALLAS — There’s an old saying which warns that “television will rot your brain.” Several new studies find it might be true. Researchers find that watching more TV each day throughout adulthood and middle age can age the brain faster and put viewers at greater risk for cognitive decline later in life.

Study authors also discovered moderate-to-high TV viewing during midlife also has a connection to lower grey matter volumes. However, sedentary behaviors which stimulate the brain such as reading did not have the same negative effects.

Grey matter is the darker tissue of the brain and spinal cord. It helps to coordinate muscle control, seeing, hearing, decision-making, and other important brain functions. The higher a person’s volume of brain grey matter, the better cognitive skills they typically have.

Researchers presented their findings in a series of studies at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference 2021.

Of course if you don't watch much TV you'll know this already. 

Friday 21 May 2021

Not that we want people to become hypochondriacs

Three cases of the Indian strain of the virus, which is classed as a ‘variant of concern’, were confirmed in the Glossop area with a further case found in the Derbyshire Dales...

The main coronavirus symptoms are a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. But some people in the Long Eaton area who tested positive for the virus reported experiencing other symptoms including tummy ache, sore throat, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, feeling or being sick, headaches, joint pain, runny nose, sneezing, feeling drowsy, tiredness, muscle aches or generally feeling poorly.

People in the Derbyshire Dales and Glossop area are being advised to look out for these symptoms as they may be a sign that they have got coronavirus.

It's the grievance game yet again

Harry accuses Royal Family of 'total silence and neglect' and says he turned to drink and drugs as an adult over Diana's death

The Duke of Sussex was talking in a new Apple TV+ programme about mental health, called The Me You Can't See.

It's a defining aspect of modern celebrity politics, the self-centered grievance game. To say this is not unsympathetic dismissal - high-profile people have to cope with being high-profile. Obviously so, shouldn't need saying. 

Alternatively they have to lower their profile and tune out the problem as far as it can be tuned out. Sink into the background, read, go for long walks, keep bees, only rarely give interviews. That kind of thing. 

However this is the modern world and it is possible to make political and financial gains from the machinery of grievance publicity. It is possible to wallow in it. People will help you with that. 

The Duke of Sussex was talking in a new Apple TV+ programme about mental health, called The Me You Can't See. Nope - he's the me we can see all too clearly, the man who must be embarrassing millions.


I was recently talking to a chap about the coronavirus caper and he told me about one of his elderly customers who became very ill with Covid-19. So much so that the old guy went into a coma and at one point was expected to die. Fortunately he recovered and afterwards was asked if being in a coma was much the same as being asleep.

Apparently in his case it wasn’t. While in a coma the chap had a succession of nightmares which of course he couldn’t escape because of his condition. It was so bad that he now has therapy for the nightmares as part of his recovery. Sounds grim and maybe this is common coma knowledge, but it's not something I’d heard of before. Kicking the bucket almost sounds preferable.

Thursday 20 May 2021

Ratchet news - a daily occurrence

COVID-19 travel: Expect 'knock on the door' when you return from amber countries, Priti Patel warns

The home secretary says officials will check if people who've been to countries on the government's amber list are self-isolating.

People who return from countries on the government's travel amber list should expect a "knock on the door", the home secretary has warned.

Priti Patel has told the Daily Mail newspaper enforcement is being stepped up to make sure people who visit countries such as France, Italy and Spain obey the rules on quarantining.

Currently, anyone who returns from a country on the amber list - which is the vast majority of countries around the world - has to self-isolate for 10 days and take two COVID tests.

For a considerable time this has felt more like civil defence than a response to the pandemic. A permanent state of alert against largely imaginary threats.

Maybe we'll see the British Rail Slouch again

Rail passengers should see more punctual services and cheaper tickets as part of a huge shake up of UK's railways, the government says.

It says a new state-owned body, Great British Railways (GBR), will set timetables and prices, sell tickets in England and manage rail infrastructure.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted the current system was "too complicated" and "fragmented".

He also promised GBR would be more accountable for delays and disruption.

Maintaining those more punctual services on an electrified network which depends on wind power should be thoroughly entertaining. This game is not entirely unconnected with doing away with private cars I suppose. Plus the now familiar game of squatting on Sir Keir's political territory.

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Obama - as unreliable as ever


Two analyses of supposed UFO sightings by the military. Mick West gives a preliminary analysis of a recent video above and Barack Obama's general observations are below.

'We don't know what they are and can't explain how they move': Obama confirms UFO sightings by military are real and says they 'must be taken seriously'

  • Former President Barack Obama says he has seen footage of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) that defy rational explanation
  • 'We can't explain how they moved, their trajectory… they did not have an easily explainable pattern'
  • His comments come days after a US fighter pilot revealed airmen have seen unknown aircraft off Virginia coast every day for two years

Climate change could make your house fall over

Climate Warning - It's The Guardian

The climate crisis is very likely to put millions of homes at increased risk of subsidence, according to new data from the British Geological Survey (BGS). The hotter and drier summers being driven by global heating mean the ground under houses will shrink and crack, scientists said.

The key areas affected are London, Essex, Kent, and a swathe of land from Oxford up to the Wash. This is because the clay formations underlying these areas are most vulnerable to losing moisture.

In a medium scenario for future emissions, the area of Great Britain that is highly or extremely likely to see increased risk of clay-related subsidence increases by a third from 2020 to 2030 and triples by 2050.

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Because nobody cares Arnie

COP26: Schwarzenegger tells president of this year's climate summit Sharma, 'no one knows what COP stands for'

Schwarzenegger had a virtual chat with Alok Sharma, president of this year's COP26 conference, for web series Arnold's Stammtisch.

But he had always been a man of imagination, seeing things on too grand a scale, transforming his shady dealings as an adventurer into poems; and this time, with this really colossal and prosperous enterprise, he had been carried off into extravagant dreams of conquest, to so crazy, so vast an idea, that he did not even clearly formulate it to himself.

Emile Zola - L’Argent (1890)

If anyone is incautious or dishonest enough to become enmeshed in a false position they commonly do as Zola’s anti-hero did – they do not clearly formulate the position to themselves. It is embarrassingly clear that the consequences of failed climate predictions obviously made in bad faith are not clearly formulated by believers.

We see this failure to formulate all over the place. It has been called cognitive dissonance, but Zola’s words are good enough in that what we are seeing is avoidance behaviour from the climate faithful. The climate game really is a case of dreams of conquest, to so crazy, so vast an idea, that he did not even clearly formulate it to himself. And in a sense it really is a dream of conquest. Our individuality is lined up for conquest. 

If the global climate suddenly cools then the political situation may change, but sceptics will still struggle to make themselves heard against the sheer weight of power, money and abuse. COP26 is political theatre performed by the rich and ridiculous. Arnie must be down for both roles.

Monday 17 May 2021

Highly-paid servants

They also had about them the indescribable air of rather aggressive assurance which belongs especially to highly-paid servants, men and women.

F. Marion Crawford - The Primadonna (1907)

As we have seen over the past year, high-profile government experts tend to be like this, they have that particular brand of assurance. We don’t pay their salaries except in a very indirect and involuntary sense, so they are not our servants. Our interests are not necessarily theirs.

Lightning Strike


Passing through woodland yesterday, we came across this tree which had been struck by lightning during recent thunderstorms. Not an uncommon sight, but all that freshly smashed wood was a reminder of how powerful a lightning strike can be. It was smashed as if struck from above by a single clumsy blow from a gigantic axe.

Travellers 2

A quick addition to the previous post. We were driving that way this morning so popped into the car park to see how things have progressed. They haven't.

We drew up near an outfit which had a Mercedes AMG with personalised registration plate, a 4x4 and a new twin axle caravan. Must be a profitable game whatever it is.

Sunday 16 May 2021

Travellers in Derbyshire

Liberal commentator Matthew Parris says travellers must be told their way of life is over and they have no place in modern Britain after a group takes over a car park near his Peak District home

A leading liberal commentator has shocked the chattering classes by calling for a blanket ban on gipsies, claiming Travellers have no place in modern Britain.

Newspaper columnist Matthew Parris, an ex-Tory MP who has carved out a career as a critic of his former Conservative colleagues, delivered his broadside after a group set up camp in the Derbyshire town Matlock, near his cottage in the Peak District.

'There is simply no place for the true nomad in modern Britain,' he writes in his latest Times column

We know this car park well, having used it for years, especially during lockdown when takeaway coffee was available nearby. We'd leave the car there and have coffee and cake in a nearby park. When referring to Matthew Parris' home in Derbyshire it's a bit of a stretch to describe the car park as 'near his cottage in Derbyshire', but maybe it's close enough for a story.

Travellers have been there for months, certainly since last year, but until very recently it hasn't made any real difference to us. It's a good sized car park and in our experience has never been anywhere near full during that period. If the Mail photo is recent, then that situation has suddenly changed and a much larger area has been appropriated by travellers. 

Maybe the stakes are being raised so we'll just go elsewhere until the situation is resolved. I wouldn't call them 'true nomads' though. Doesn't quite fit what we've seen of them over the months.

Saturday 15 May 2021

Tipping point

Time for a small dose of optimism. Keeps me going anyhow. To begin with, here’s a question. Has the word ‘woke’ evolved into a term of ridicule?

For many people it certainly has, as if the speed of the internet is beginning to root out the worst facets of progressive silliness. With that in mind, suppose we add a few things together.

Woke culture, Joe Biden, gender politics, obvious loons in the public arena, the antics of Prince Harry, Greta Doomberg, the ethical decline of television, the ethical decline of news media, the coronavirus debacle. There are many others but these will do.

All these features of the public arena are clues, so it may be worth considering how many people are so completely oblivious that they fail to see any of them as pointers to a major malaise. Possibly not many people are that obtuse. Not as many we might cynically assume and possibly not as many people as the mass media appear to assume.

In that case here’s the optimism.

It is possible that some kind of tipping point lurks just below the progressive horizon. This could be a far more positive tipping point that we might suppose, given the lunacy so prevalent in the public arena. The blatant nature of that lunacy may be a reason for optimism. Maybe it has simply become too obvious and too accessible.

Musings of a Time Traveller

The other morning I woke while it was still dark, checked the clock and saw it was only about 4:30. Curses – over two hours before the alarm goes. Then a strange thing occurred. I lay back in bed thinking of nothing in particular and moments later the alarm went off. No need to check the clock because the alarm was set for 6:45 as usual. 

Where did that two hours and fifteen minutes go? The obvious conclusion is that I travelled forward in time from 4:30 to 6:45. Maybe a spacetime portal flickered in and out of existence but hung around just long enough to transport me through time. Of course the portal could have existed for only a matter of milliseconds.

At least time travel is what it felt like and as feelings dictate reality in our progressive world, I’m not prepared to listen to time travel deniers on this one. I already know what will be said – that I fell asleep for a couple of hours. Sorry, but that’s not what it felt like and feelings matter far more than mere facts.

Take Prince Harry for example. Here’s a chap who was brave enough to ditch his grandmother and his entire family for the sake of his feelings. Well done Harry. Critics may say he’s an absurd dork who once had nothing to prove but if we focus on his feelings…

His feelings about his ethical Hollywood lifestyle… His feelings about filthy rich people who pretend to be oppressed… All those feelings above waist level…


Hmm again...  

Maybe those time travel deniers do have a point though.

Friday 14 May 2021



I've noticed a slight change in my attitude towards wildlife recently. I find myself thinking lucky sods, even when they scrap like maniacs over a bit of territory. As we humans do too of course.

But we also scrap like maniacs over abstractions invented by lunatics. I wonder what the natural world thinks of gender politics? 

Thursday 13 May 2021

Stamped Out

The effect of night, of any flowing water, of lighted cities, of the peep of day, of ships, of the open ocean, calls up in the mind an army of anonymous desires and pleasures. Something, we feel, should happen; we know not what, yet we proceed in quest of it.

Robert Louis Stevenson - A Gossip on Romance (1882)

An effect of the coronavirus debacle has been to stamp out a wider view of life and death and our hunger for meaning. It has stifled an army of anonymous desires and pleasures. To some extent it has verged on stamping out our sense of self, our individuality, our history, interests, hopes and fears.

Obviously not entirely stamped out by any means, but significantly perhaps. Enough to wonder about the less tangible harm it has caused. Life goes on, but something seems to have been sucked out of it and rendered it more mechanical, more routine. 

It gives considerable support to those who feel that listening to the clamour of the public arena is not really worth the effort. It takes too much from real life.

Wednesday 12 May 2021

More bureaucracy is the answer

The Covid-19 pandemic was preventable, an independent review panel has said.

The panel, set up by the World Health Organization, said the combined response of the WHO and global governments was a "toxic cocktail".

To prevent another catastrophic pandemic, the report suggests key reforms:
  • A new global threats council should be created with the power to hold countries accountable
  • There should be a disease surveillance system to publish information without the approval of countries concerned
  • Vaccines must be classed as public goods and there should be a pandemic financing facility
There was an immediate request for the wealthy G7 nations to commit $1.9bn (£1.3bn) to the WHO's Covax programme providing vaccine support to low income countries.

The report itself thinks climate change should be in there somewhere so it is. Page 20  -

The threats to human, animal and environmental health are inextricably linked, and instruments to address them need to include climate change agreements and “30x30” global biodiversity targets.

Lots of other global centralisation waffle too of course, with plenty of scope for widening the international bureaucrat's career. I only skimmed it, but didn't see much specific accountability in there. Maybe I missed it.

Maybe this is Sir Keir's problem


Tuesday 11 May 2021

Quacks and their models


Quite long, but entertainingly robust sense and more from William Briggs.

The obvious next step


Some trepidation as the procedure is explained

The government has tentatively approved the obvious next step in its Covid vaccination programme. In order to protect the unborn, men who plan to father children will be offered the opportunity to have their testicles vaccinated. 

In a courageous move, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has volunteered to be the first to try this new procedure. Parliamentary gossip suggests that he did not actually volunteer but the Cabinet unanimously put his name forward as the ideal test subject. Almost unanimously perhaps we should say.

Monday 10 May 2021

Fake Politics

Cripes – why did Sir Keir bother with a reshuffle? This is surely not the time to dwell, head in hands, on the miserable quality of Labour MPs available to fill the role of shadow minister. Useless, inexperienced, malevolent pettifogging loons - and those are generally the best of the bunch.

It leaves us with a conclusion which keeps suggesting itself. At least one of the two major political parties needs to be completely dissolved to make way for a new party without the baggage of the old. The main candidate for constructive dissolution at the moment seems to be the tired old Labour socialists rather than the newbie Conservative socialists.

Without something as drastic as this we seem doomed to continue with what we have now, fake politics - or wall to wall socialism with no opportunity to change anything at all through the ballot box.

No chance of dropping to one


Covid alert level reduced as lockdown set to ease

The UK's coronavirus alert level is being lowered from four to three on the advice of experts.

Alert level three means that although the virus is still in general circulation, transmission is no longer high or rising exponentially.

It comes as Boris Johnson is due to confirm at a Downing Street briefing England's pubs can serve indoors in the latest easing of lockdown next Monday.

The PM may also announce guidance that it is safe to hug friends and family.

It's a guess of course, but the chance of the Covid alert level dropping to one seems to be zero. A situation where Covid-19 is not known to be present in the UK and all we have is international monitoring? I don't think so. Not unless this game is replaced by another.

Sunday 9 May 2021

Scrape that barrel

COVID-19: Hugs set to return from 17 May as PM expected to outline next stage of lockdown easing

Michael Gove tells Sky News the prime minister is set to give the green light to lifting lockdown as planned on 17 May.

Meanwhile we hear the distinct sound of deep barrel scraping, as if the intention is to keep the thing going for as long as possible.

World of Scam

We hardly use our landline phone these days and although I haven’t counted, it wouldn’t surprise me if we receive more scam calls than genuine ones. Calls supposedly about our Amazon account about to expire or from the National Crime Agency or obvious robot calls which never manage to begin the spiel in a realistically human manner. Cheap apps for scammers presumably. Surely none of it can be worth the effort as people wise up to it.

Texts and emails provide us with a rich source of scam messages too. A new payee set up on the bank account we don’t have, a mobile phone account about to expire, £2.99 demanded as excess postage for an unspecified item from an unspecified supplier.

Grandson receives email and text scam messages all the time. He’s only thirteen but already quite familiar with it all. Such as the new payee message for the bank account he’s not old enough to have. He just treats scams as part of daily life. It's an important lesson.

Yet the media would have us believe that the biggest internet problems are fake news, hate speech and online transphobia. Ironic really, because these are mostly scams too.

Saturday 8 May 2021

Labour's Hartlepool debacle

CAPX has an interesting piece on Labour's Hartlepool debacle -

The modern Labour Party, packed to the rafters with radical student activists who specialise in undemocratic thought-policing behaviour and indulge in overzealous forms of identity politics, is unmoored from the traditional, undemonstrative views held in many English towns. Youthful Corbynites in the parliamentary party such as Zarah Sultana and Nadia Whittome may be wildly popular in their hard-left echo chambers, but their brand of social media savvy student politics is totally alien to places like Hartlepool. The fact that some on the Labour left genuinely see these MPs as the future of the party speaks volumes.

A sound analysis in my view, but it doesn't really explain why Labour lost so badly. However this part of the piece corrects that.

In contrast the Tory blueprint is clear, simple and unburdened with much ideological baggage – win the hearts and minds of as many pro-Brexit voters as possible through an ambitious economic plan for reducing regional inequality, pushing back on the excesses of identity politics and framing itself as an optimistic, patriotic force. Creating a well-ordered immigration system and reversing previous Tory cuts to frontline policing are two key policy areas for shoring up cultural conservatives who value both the stability and security of their local communities.

To my mind, the key word here is optimistic. Maybe this is the second part of Labour's losing equation. Boris Johnson certainly comes across as an optimistic leader and this appears to be important. It's something I tend to underestimate, but optimism certainly provides a stark contrast between Johnson and Starmer and the contrast certainly spills over into their respective parties.

Something to consider when assessing Boris Johnson perhaps. Easily dismissed as style over substance, but style wins elections. As we have just seen.

Comedy Junkyards


As we know, Harry Enfield’s character is an exaggerated stereotype cast well adrift from real life. Yet it could have been much closer to real life and possibly more amusing.

Instead of I’m considerably richer that you we could have had –

I’m considerably more caring than you
I’m considerably greener than you
I’m considerably more progressive than you

Maybe the audience would have been smaller though. A vast amount of popular comedy is clearly written to parody safely exaggerated stereotypes. Comedy where an existing stereotype won’t usually do because popular exaggeration is the basis of the comic effect and wide appeal.

Maybe what we learn from it all is that there must be lots of absurd stereotypes left lying around by comedians, writers and pundits. They lodge themselves in the culture. Cultural junk we might say. Does TV create cultural junk and leave it lying around for decades? It certainly seems so.

Friday 7 May 2021

Oh Well Done Sir Keir


Strewth, in spite of the lockdown mess, Labour can't even do opposition...

Oh hang on...

No doubt it's partly because of the lockdown mess.  

Thursday 6 May 2021

Booze News

Alcohol misuse killed more people last year in England and Wales than in any of the previous 20 years, according to official data.

In 2020, there were 7,423 deaths related to alcohol misuse - up from 19.6% in the previous year, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

Deaths increased from March 2020, when the first national COVID-19 lockdown was put in place.

Presumably we should put these excess deaths down to government pandemic policy. I'm sure there will be many more. Delayed medical treatment, delayed diagnoses. Boris needs a major distraction and somehow I think he'll find it. Seems to be what he does.

Give it time

A glimpse of human grief, at the loss of a child 78,000 years ago, has been revealed in the discovery of the oldest burial site in Africa.

The Middle Stone Age grave - of a three-year-old child - was found in a cave in Kenya.

In a paper in the journal Nature, the researchers who studied the fragile, ancient remains described how its head appeared to have been laid on a pillow.

Scientists have named the child Mtoto, meaning "the kid" in Swahili.

Horribly cynical to suggest it, but one day are we likely to see a claim that this child's people probably invented writing, poetry and representational art? Give it time.

Here we go again

Here we go again - another election day. Not the big one but how exciting it all is. Worth taking stock of party politics more generally during these strange times, but we still hit the old problem.

In a democracy we vote for X, we vote against Y, but the problem remains. One of the most deceptive aspects of the voting game is deliberately exaggerated differences between political parties, political actors, policies, media outlets.

The difference between one political standpoint and another. Exaggerated by giving them different names, exaggerated to a point where important similarities are obscured, not debated, not clarified as they should be.

For example, the difference between communism, fascism, socialism, liberalism and a number of other political isms. Or the difference between green hustlers, gender hustlers, race hustlers or general purpose hustlers.

As we know too well, players of the Great Game are keen to establish unique selling points, aspects of their brand, to seem better, newer, more fashionable, kinder, closer. Or dangerous, not to be trifled with, unhinged, approach with care. We see that on the fringes too. Not always on the fringes though.

Careful delineation of differences. Yet to an outsider the similarities matter at least as much as the differences. Maybe more. Differences often obscure more than they reveal such as imaginary positions on the imaginary left right spectrum of imaginary political opinion with imaginary consequences.

A more realistic spectrum could be devised to highlight the similarities. An alternative way to view the political game. Such as –


What was New Labour under Tony Blair? Socialist? Big Tent Socialist? Third Way Socialist? Happy Clappy Socialist? Fascist? To an outsider it is probably better to see Blair for what he was and ignore the traditional political labels. It usually is. New? Not really. A political hustler perhaps. Sometimes hustler, sometimes political, sometimes both. Never apolitical.

What are the Conservatives under Boris Johnson? Certainly not conservatives, not those who wish to conserve, those who know what is worth conserving. How about Socialists? Closer perhaps, but again, to an outsider it is probably better to see Boris and the Tories for what they are and ignore the traditional political labels. They take us nowhere.

Certainly the Boris regime is not conservative. Not fans of the free market, democrats or fans of limited liberal government. That would be the old version of liberal. The version which built, which preserved, which mostly disapproved of hustlers. Not always. It never is always in politics.

Perhaps we should ignore differences between Blair and Johnson. Blair pursued the political aims of the establishment intermingled with the demands of his own political career. He concentrated on selling those aspects which could be sold while avoiding those which could not. He was mostly hustler. Johnson is too.

Wednesday 5 May 2021

The ratchet clicks again

Zellweger, DiCaprio, Beyonce among stars given VIP status under new UK points-based immigration system

Those who meet the criteria will be able to live and work in the UK more easily under reforms being introduced by the Home Office...

Those who will qualify are winners of Nobel Prizes, the Turing Award, Oscars and Golden Globes, who will be able to live and work in the UK more easily under reforms being introduced by the Home Office.

Individuals who have won prestigious awards from across the sciences, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology will be able to take advantage of changes to the Global Talent visa route.

The ratchet clicks again. Maybe ZiL lanes are coming back too.

Hole in the wall


Tuesday 4 May 2021

Cheap Certificate

The Government has today (Tuesday 4 May) delivered on its pledge to reduce the fee of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

In response to the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, committed to modernising the process of applying for a GRC, reducing the £140 fee and moving the process online, making it fairer and simpler.

From today, applicants will be only required to pay £5, ensuring the process is more affordable and remedying one of the key issues that was identified by transgender people in the GRA consultation and the National LGBT Survey.

To my political nose there is a whiff of care in the community about this. Give us a fiver, you get what you want, now go away and don't bother us. Not a bad move really. For now, but it's always for now. 

Bad Reaction

A while back Son had Covid-19. Two positive tests and a few days of flu-like symptoms.  Not a pleasant experience with some reduced lung function for a while but bearable without medical attention. He's a fit chap in his early forties so we expected him to shake it off fairly easily which fortunately he did.

A few days ago he also had the AZ vaccine in case he might need some kind of certification at some point. Covid-19 wasn't so bad after all. Yet the vaccine side-effects bowled him over. He says it was ten times worse than the disease itself. Saw him this morning and he's recovering now, but it was a very unpleasant experience. 

Make of it what you will.

Monday 3 May 2021

What a day

Cold, wet and windy all day here in Derbyshire. The central heating is on, gas fire has been on for most of the day and we are sitting here waiting for some global warming. Maybe cows aren't farting enough at the moment.

Here in central England, we've just been through the coldest April since 1986 according to Met Office data. Only weather we're told, but had it been the warmest since 1986 we'd see it in BBC headlines.

As an aside, I wonder how the coronavirus debacle is shaping up locally - might be worth checking. We've been in all day so we should be safe from the rampaging pandemic. 

Little Red Wokehood

Little Red Wokehood meets Reality

As we know, Grimm’s fairy tales were at least partly intended to instil obedience into children. Those dark forests full of lurking dangers such as wolves, witches and the equally frightful prospect of becoming lost among huge gloomy trees.

As we also know, governments spin scary fairy tales for much the same reason except this time both adults and children are supposed to be scared into general obedience. We have seen the most blatant example of this during the coronavirus debacle.

Wolves are real and so is the virus, and like the wolf, the virus nobbles granny first. But of course the Grimm-like threat is exaggerated. Yet it seems more than likely that this fairy story will continue on into the future in one form or another. 

Book 2 is probably already written about the evil wizard Influenza. The only spell able to save us is a magic potion stored in a hypodermic syringe.

Woke stories have much the same aim. Fairy tales about climate change, far right wolves roaming the forests where decent folk don't go. Tales of an enchanted green land where unfortunately the wrong word can put you under an evil spell and only a kiss from a polyamorous gender fluid princess sets you free. It’s all about obedience. 

Sunday 2 May 2021

Litmus Joe

Even from this side of the Atlantic, Joe Biden’s inadequacy has been obvious for some time, certainly from well before the presidential election. Apart from anything else, it adds credence to claims that he did not receive that unprecedented number of votes in 2020.

If we set aside all the arguments about voting irregularities and merely ask whether or not people would vote for such a man in such huge numbers.

If we treat the question as an opinion where some will see that Biden’s lack of credibility is an embarrassing problem with democratic implications, some will not see it and that is as far as we can go.

If we assume that a significant number of Democrats did not want an obviously inadequate president.

We end up with a litmus test.

Biden never was a convincing candidate. His unpopular running mate did nothing to improve the situation. It hasn’t taken long, but as time goes on, Biden looks less and less like a president who could ever have won the election fairly.

Impressions matter and this one seems to be creeping around the Biden presidency like a stinking vapour of rotting democratic values, the mephitic mess that is US politics.

Saturday 1 May 2021

In later years

He would always be one of those egotists who can see no one right but themselves; who, in later years, will slip behind the times and make themselves fools because they do not know that time, weather, habit, philosophy and religion have all changed while they were blustering.

Hugh Walpole - The Bright Pavilions (1940)

A disturbing quote if we think of our civilisation as one of those egotists. It is surely plausible that our western civilisation could turn out to have been a temporary anomaly. One which rose from nowhere and is destined to fade back into a feudal future where most of our technical, scientific, cultural and legal achievements are slowly forgotten.

Perhaps not so odd if sustainable turns out to mean primitive. That would be primitive for the peasants of course - not everyone.

Consider the dominance of woke politics, climate change, gender politics, race politics, the coronavirus debacle, immigration, mainstream media. Now add Joe Biden to the mix.

Who first invented stupidity?

A heated academic debate is building up over the invention of stupidity. When was it first invented and where should the credit go? Unusually in the case of important inventions, no country claims to be the first to have invented stupidity.

I put this vital question to Dr Baz Broxtowe of Fradley University. Dr Baz is engaged in research into the historical origins of stupidity. His team at Fradley has built an AI system to probe this vexed issue, a system they call COVID, or the Cultural Origins of Voluntary Idiot Development.

“We always assume that stupidity has been around forever,” Dr Baz explained, to me over a quick coffee at Fradley, “but modern stupidity appears to be fundamentally different in that it is both voluntary and sustainable.”

“Voluntary and sustainable?” I asked. Obvious question I thought, but as Dr Baz explains so well, stupidity can be sustainable.

“Yes, voluntary in that intelligent people often choose to be stupid in certain areas where it is advantageous.”

“How can it be advantageous to be stupid?” Another obvious question although I soon realised that I already knew the answer to this one.

“Professionally advantageous usually,” Dr Baz replied. "Acquiring a prominent position by promoting a dumb but widely accepted consensus for example." He pointed to a notice on the wall about gender diversity training.

“Okay I sort of see that, but what about sustainable?”

“Stupidity can be sustainable in the sense that certain socially important modes of stupidity persist for prolonged periods without any real risk of fading away. We must regard this key type of stupidity as socially useful stupidity. We should view it as a valued tool in the armoury of the ambitious. Otherwise it would not be sustainable. Simple really, but so often mistaken for unsustainable stupidity.”

“A valued tool?” Another obvious question I thought, but Dr Baz has some interesting theories to back up his assertion and I was beginning to grasp his drift.

“Yes, stupidity as a valued tool. Sustainable stupidity tells us that society can and indeed must accommodate this kind of stupidity because of its inherent value. Even more striking is that sustainable stupidity cannot be stupid except in some kind of outdated and elitist sense.”

“Okay I think I get that too,” I replied. “But how does one begin to research the origins of stupidity?”

“It isn’t easy, but we have developed our COVID system to track and classify instances of stupidity throughout recorded history. There are some obvious modern clues though.”

“Such as?”

“Joe Biden for one,” spluttered Dr Baz, almost choking on his coffee. “I mean… I mean Joe Biden as US Prez…” He burst out laughing and it was some time before he was able to resume normal service.

“But that was very recent,” I pointed out. “It hardly constitutes an analysis of historical trends.”

“Yes, yes I suppose you are right,” Dr Baz admitted, wiping his eyes with a tissue. “But another one is the idea that climate parameters can be predicted for thirty years into the future.”

At this point Dr Baz was laughing so uncontrollably that he fell off his chair. As someone who pays for green electricity and recycles a substantial number of yogurt pots I couldn’t help feeling somewhat offended. I gathered up my notes and left. Dr Baz was still laughing.