Tuesday 30 November 2021

But we didn't notice

COVID news live: Boris Johnson holding news conference on booster plan amid 'distinct possibility' Omicron has been spreading for months

Coronavirus latest as mask wearing becomes compulsory again in shops in England; PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers return; Moderna boss says vaccine effectiveness will likely drop against Omicron variant; Boris Johnson to hold news conference from 4pm.

Doesn't sound too scary if we didn't notice. Reminds me of that bad cough I had but didn't notice.

Monday 29 November 2021

But this fear is witless

Yes, my dear Lucilius; we agree too quickly with what people say. We do not put to the test those things which cause our fear; we do not examine into them; we blench and retreat just like soldiers who are forced to abandon their camp because of a dust-cloud raised by stampeding cattle, or are thrown into a panic by the spreading of some unauthenticated rumour. And somehow or other it is the idle report that disturbs us most. For truth has its own definite boundaries, but that which arises from uncertainty is delivered over to guesswork and the irresponsible license of a frightened mind. That is why no fear is so ruinous and so uncontrollable as panic fear. For other fears are groundless, but this fear is witless.

Seneca - Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium c. 65 AD

I’m trying to work up some panic about the Omigod variant but it isn’t easy. I don’t know if it’s a missing panic gene or something, but I can’t find my panic anywhere. Maybe I should watch more television.

Crystal Balls

Healing CRYSTALS cured my STAGE FRIGHT! The stars who can't sparkle without their crystals!

As far as celebrity trends go, healing crystals is certainly up there with the wackiest, but also one of the most reliable.

These are the stars who need to have their healing crystals to hand in order to deal with anything life throws at them...

Merely casual interest this, but a chap is bound to wonder if there is any overlap between celebrities who believe in magic crystals and those who preach at us about climate change. Possibly not, but it would be an odd mix, magic and atmospheric physics.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Imagine The View

Sarah was not a snob, but it was a time when the middle classes thought of the peasants as of another world from themselves, like dogs or cats or horses.

Hugh Walpole - Rogue Herries (1930)

Snobbery is an ancient aspect of social reality, but it is worth reminding ourselves that the establishment still looks down on ordinary folk. It is also inclined to view us in the main as somewhat deplorable.

It was a familiar enough attitude in the days of servants, silk hats and the local squire, but the outlook is still with us. Hillary Clinton gave the game away with her basket of deplorables comment, but it is an extremely old status game. The aristocracy and upper middle classes have always looked down on the peasants.

Yet Brexit plus the election of Donald Trump seem to have made the dislike and distrust between establishment and deplorables much sharper. So much so that it must be worth asking ourselves if woke political games are an attempt to counter what is seen as deplorable culture.

The establishment just doesn’t like us we might say. From what I see, this simple viewpoint has cropped up in a number places recently and it does seem to explain recent political insanities.

They don’t like us, they look down on the way we live and are entirely comfortable with policies which undermine everything from healthcare to education, from housing to transport, from the energy market to holiday destinations, from diets to hobbies.

It’s a long list, yet it is easy enough to see what may be going on. Take a walk around a shopping centre as the dire consumer frenzy we call Christmas looms large. Listen to the crappy music, do some cynical people-watching then imagine yourself wafted into a higher sphere where money and taste abound. 

This is not to say that political and social trends are rooted in snobbery and little else, but the contempt one social class may feel for another is not difficult to understand from either situation. I don’t occupy a higher sphere where money and taste abound, but it is easy enough to imagine the view.

More snow


This afternoon I took this photo of a new snowfall here in Derbyshire. To my mind it emphasises an important point about the climate emergency. 

Although our previous snowfall had almost completely melted by this morning, having more snow fall this afternoon merely highlights how relentless the warming is.

Saturday 27 November 2021

Totalitarian TV

James Bembridge has a TCW piece about The Jeremy Vine Show on Channel 5. Not on my radar at all, but for an outsider it makes interesting reading. I certainly hope the number of Channel 5 viewers is small and trending downwards.

EVERY day at 9:15am, an intense and unshakeable sense of doom begins to surge through me. It is, of course, the time at which The Jeremy Vine Show begins to air on Channel 5.

To give you a flavour of the show’s output, here are three questions it recently served up as points of national discussion: ‘Should we lock down the unvaccinated?’, ‘should pubs ban mobile phones?’, and ‘should we mandate vaccines?’ – In short, the show now caters for fools and fascists.

Worth reading as a reminder of just how ghastly people can be when offered the opportunity and a modicum of what could appear to be official approval. 

The things we miss by not watching television. 


Had a light covering of snow early this morning but it has virtually all gone now. The grandkids enjoyed the snowball fights though - it was damp enough to stick together easily. COP26 just missed it, although their version would have been due to the climate emergency or something.

Friday 26 November 2021

Deeper forces are at work

This piece by David Starkey is well worth reading. It links woke politics with the historical rise of a complex interweaving of social class in an increasingly technical world.

...the web, which has imprisoned so much of humanity in an actual Plato’s Cave, has fatally eroded the distinction between truth and falsehood on which the intellectual revolution of the western mind was based in the half millennium since the Renaissance and Reformation.

The result is the Great Awokening, which echoes and combines the worst aspects of the Romantic Movement and the Religious Revival that were the nineteenth century’s reaction to the Age of Enlightenment.

But, I would argue, older, deeper forces are at work as well. Including one of the oldest and deepest: the idea of a “profession” as distinct from (and of course superior to) a mere trade.

Thursday 25 November 2021

If it looks like a duck…

Some government activities are so obviously loopy that a whiff of paranoia is not necessarily inappropriate. For example, it is obvious that the UK Net Zero policy is absurdly risky. Huge amounts of money could be pointlessly squandered and we could screw up the future of our children when supposedly that is what Net Zero protects.

Net Zero could be a colossal failure for at least two reasons.
  1. If catastrophic global warming does not occur anyway.
  2. If the UK Net Zero policy makes no difference to atmospheric CO2.
Yet effectively we have been told that there is zero probability of failure. We have been told this indirectly but very strongly in a There Is No Alternative sense. Yet to a very good approximation, outcome 2 is a stone cold certainty. UK emissions are far too small to make a difference and everyone knows it. Net Zero is certain to fail as a policy so we ask - who loses when Net Zero does fail?

Merely by asking the question we may as well accept that its backers do not care if Net Zero fails. They are not stupid, they know it will fail but consider themselves to be insulated from failure. Monumental stupidity is an alternative explanation, especially when we see people sitting on the M25, but the people behind Net Zero don’t do silly things like that. They make silly speeches which is far more comfortable.

To my mind there is an inescapable conclusion here. The bureaucrats and political classes promoting Net Zero know it will fail. They must know therefore they don’t care. As if one social class is determined to degrade the living standards of another. It is as it seems to be. Many things are.

If only the UK had someone that smart

Britain too ‘attractive’ for illegal migrants, French minister claims

Poor management of immigration makes the UK “too attractive” for migrants, France’s outspoken Interior Minister has said, in the wake of the death of 27 people in the English Channel on Wednesday.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Almost Uncanny


We're very alarmed

COVID-19: WHO warns of half a million more virus-related deaths by spring across Europe...

Robb Butler, executive director for WHO Europe, told Kay Burley on Sky News half a million more deaths could be recorded by early 2022 if measures are not taken to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

"We're very alarmed," he said.

Exact measurements are not easy to obtain, but there appears to have been a significant decline in global alarm levels since COP26. Hardly surprising for such a damp squib, but this is not what AGW (Anthropogenic Global Worrying) models predicted. Of course WHO bureaucrats are alarmed. 

Tuesday 23 November 2021

Prepare young people for the future

Make climate education mandatory in schools, Labour MP says

Nadia Whittome told MPs her bill to integrate climate change and sustainability into the curriculum would ‘prepare young people for the future’.

Prepare young people for the future eh? Maybe the kids will be taught to aspire to a private jet so they can attend COP50 with a clear conscience. Good idea but crikey - some MPs certainly seems to be fond of making things mandatory. 

I can understand that though. There are a few things I'd like to make mandatory.


Electric vehicles: New homes will be required to have EV charging stations from 2022, Boris Johnson to announce

The UK government wants to ban the sale of traditional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, with hybrids allowed until 2035.

Choice? What's that? Must be one of those weird words oldies use.

Monday 22 November 2021


Unsophisticated arguments can entertainingly strong and especially entertaining when we are not supposed to notice how strong they are. Sometimes strong but simple arguments have to be dismissed as unsophisticated to discourage even the incurious from picking up on them. 

For example, as we drive on and on towards Peak Tedium it is still worth recalling that prominent royals such as Prince Charles, David Attenborough and Princess Nut Nut have a theory that driving around in cars warms up the outside world. The unsophisticated may call it global warming. The more sophisticated appear to vary their terminology depending on the impression they wish to make.

Yet a moment or two spent considering this royally approved notion casts a good deal of unsophisticated doubt on it. If we had really discovered that driving around in cars causes a tiny amount of global warming we’d reduce the tax on cars with huge engines to keep the effect going. Cars with titchy little engines would be taxed heavily and we teach children to point at them and laugh.

We’d have to do something about bicycles too, because they don’t emit any CO2. Wind turbines and solar panels would have to go, or at least attract punitive taxes.

In a nutshell, if we really believed that adding CO2 to the atmosphere causes a modest amount of global warming them we’d be pumping the stuff out as hard as we can go. A tiny bit of warmth plus the agricultural benefits of more CO2 in the atmosphere – yes we’d be grabbing that effect with both hands.

I recently did a unsophisticated check on twenty miles of motorway. At a steady speed of 60mph, how many cars did I overtake as they kept their speed down to minimise fossil fuel consumption? None is the answer, but you already guessed that.

To a unsophisticated approximation, nobody believes the official climate change narrative. Nobody ever did believe it. The unsophisticated noticed those private jets at COP26 though.

Crafty Christmas

As a reminder of how routinely horrible Christmas can be, it isn't easy to beat Slade's shouty Christmas "song" belting out over the shopping centre sound system. I thought we may avoid it this year by doing all of our supermarket shopping online. Apparently not.

Yet yesterday we sampled some excellent mince pies which were almost the same as Mrs H's mother used to make. She was a good cook in the old-fashioned mould - we still remember her roast beef and Yorkshire pud. 

The mince pies were an enjoyable reminder of things past, but Christmas is crafty like that. It sneaks up on a chap while he isn't paying attention. Can't keep it out entirely.

Sunday 21 November 2021

Quick - create a storm of protest

Fans urged to donate football kits to make Christmas special for disadvantaged children

Kitmas distributed 1,000 kits to disadvantaged children in the UK in 2020 - and hopes to match or beat that number this Christmas.

Quick - create a storm of protest about disadvantaged kids who can't play football because reasons. 

Two Headlines



Saturday 20 November 2021

Africa: the advantages of being last

Mathew Otieno has an interesting piece about African development in Mercatornet.

In the first visit by a senior official of the Biden administration to Africa, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is conducting a three-country tour. His first stop was Kenya, where he held closed-door talks with the president, an open conversation with members of civil society, and a press conference with his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo.

In Nigeria, his second stop, he will make a major statement on his country’s policy regarding Africa. Ahead of him, he sent a conciliatory gesture in the form of removing Nigeria from an American blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, to which it had been added by the Trump admin (it’s virtue-signalling, but that’s the name of the game these days)...

Though many parts are already reasonably well off, and the continent as a whole is improving rapidly enough to forecast the eradication of most forms of destitution within the next decade or two, Africa remains the continent which is lowest in the league tables.

By all the fancy metrics, we’re running last. The estimated 2021 GDP of the whole continent (1.4 billion people) is about the same as that of France (67 million people). Our road networks are sparse. Our education levels are the lowest. And we still lose the largest number of women and children at childbirth.

Yet there is another angle and for this reason the whole piece is well worth reading. Agree or not, it's an interesting viewpoint.

But this reading leaves out a crucial part of the story. Don’t forget that a future that looks like Europe, North America and the Far East also means a population implosion and a frayed social fabric.

It means old people wiling away their last years sequestered from their loved ones in nursing homes. It means terminally ill-patients put down like a horse with a broken leg. It means babies murdered in their mothers’ wombs. It means self-centred and confused young people, whose main care each morning is which gender to put on for the day.

Friday 19 November 2021

The Egg Custard Test


When we used to do the weekly shopping for Mrs H’s parents, we were mildly amused that four egg custards were always on the shopping list. We associated a liking for egg custard with the older generation, ours having more sophisticated tastes.

And yet…

This morning we decided to whizz off to one of our favourite cafes where we have recently acquired a taste for… er… umm… coffee and a slice of egg custard.

Does this mean we have officially joined the ranks of the oldies? Possibly it does. Maybe a liking for egg custard could even be used as a test for Covid-19 vulnerability.

Thursday 18 November 2021

HS2 and the political cost of binning bad schemes

Andy Mayer has an interesting piece in CAPX about HS2. It is worth reminding ourselves how obvious it is that HS2 is unlikely to be a worthwhile project and likely to be a huge waste of money. Mr Mayer brings this out very well.

The central economic proposition of high-speed rail is that by improving transport links between major conurbations, it can stimulate economic growth, freeing up commuting time for more useful work and linking new markets. The central economic problem is that the sums do not add up...

Even the commuting case is weak, since the savings in time are so small that they largely mean more time in bed and less time to play with phone apps for the minority using trains, rather than a major stimulus to productivity.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of a particular political reality.

If the political cost of binning bad schemes is very high, it is because they have chosen to make it so. They could instead be angrily challenging the Government to help reduce the appalling cost of these schemes through planning reforms, stimulating competition and the abolition of various sock-puppet quangos that solely exist to add cost to any decision to build a network.

Of course with HS2 we also see the bureaucratic reality of major government schemes. Bureaucrats often do their bit to ensure that the political cost of binning bad schemes is very high. It's what they do.

Wednesday 17 November 2021

A blast of vituperation

A refreshing blast of vituperation from Jonathan Meades in the Critic. It is a warning that France should take a hard look at journalist Boris Johnson before replacing Emmanuel Macron with journalist Éric Zemmour. The piece reminds me of the late Auberon Waugh's remarkable talent for vituperation. A sad loss, but this is pretty good.

A once major power is led into nightmarish catastrophe and chaos by a journalist of sorts. A cruel mendacious antinomian narcissist, an aspirant dictator who revels in destruction (judicial powers, free speech, constitutional safeguards) having learnt the joys of destruction and ostentatious oafishness at, astonishingly, a seat of “learning”. The oaf’s only creation is a shivering, starving bedlam hidden by a policy of coarse populism, formerly trading as bread and circuses. They bring hope to the gullible millions. They are instruments of delusion.

Another once major power is rashly taking little notice. France persists in believing in the Ingerlandland of Major Thompson, frigidity and the stiff upper lip. It has not registered the country’s emotional incontinence. It has quite failed to see through the Prime Shit’s threadbare mask of amiable bumbling clown and children’s entertainer, and is becoming excited by the probability of a journalist’s candidature in next spring’s presidential elections.

Good stuff, it's a pity we don't see more of it.

It should be heeding the warning from outre-Manche. Polls in mid-October put the ubiquitous broadcaster and columnist Éric Zemmour in second place behind Emmanuel Macron. He has overtaken Marine Le Pen, the loser in every election in living memory who has, by moderating her policies, alienated her core vote. All this, even before he has confirmed that he will stand.

Tuesday 16 November 2021

A problem with Bill

Jeffrey A Tucker has an interesting piece about Bill Gates published by the Brownstone Institute.

In a surprising interview, Bill Gates said the following: “We didn’t have vaccines that block transmission. We got vaccines that help you with your health, but they only slightly reduce the transmission. We need new ways of doing vaccines.”

It’s odd how he speaks of medicines as if they are like software. Try it out, observe how it works. When you find a problem, put the technicians to work. Every new iteration is an experiment. Free to try until you finally buy. Surely over time, we’ll find the answer to the problem of blocking or blotting out pathogens.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reminder of how powerful and intelligent people can fail to see serious flaws in the way they frame complex issues in terms they understand.   

Early on in the pandemic, to get a sense of Gates’s views, I watched his TED talks. I began to realize something astonishing. He knew much less than anyone could discover by reading a book on cell biology from Amazon. He couldn’t even give a basic 9th-grade-level explanation of viruses and their interaction with the human body. And yet here he was lecturing the world about the coming pathogen and what should be done about it. His answer is always the same: more surveillance, more control, more technology.

Once you understand the simplicity of his core confusions, everything else he says makes sense from his point of view. He seems forever stuck in the fallacy that the human being is a cog in a massive machine called society that cries out for his managerial and technological leadership to improve to the point of operational perfection.

Crumbs - do people still eat those things?


Mr Kipling maker hints at price rises ahead as it spends big to stock shelves for Christmas

The company reveals it has been investing heavily to make sure supplies of its well-known brands are freely available, with a fall in sales also contributing to a fall in its share price.

Monday 15 November 2021

Very, Very Frightened


Sometimes it's hard to know what to say. Even ridicule bounces off when the ridiculous is genuinely ridiculous.  

Careers Advice

Hi there - Oscar isn’t it?


Well Oscar, first let me welcome you to VocataBot, our careers advice artificial intelligence system. Before we get down to some actual career analysis, I’ll introduce myself. You may simply known me as a careers AI system, but I also have a name which is Conan and I’m here not to point you in one particular direction but to explore possibilities. How does that sound as a starter Oscar?

That sounds fine, but really I have no idea…

Forgive me for interrupting you there Oscar, but it doesn’t matter about fixed ideas at this stage. We are doing the really exciting stuff first – the journey of exploration. Who is Oscar and what does he want out of life. What could be more exciting than that?

Okay - fine.

Here at VocataBot we want you to be yourself Oscar, to find your true self, the real Oscar.

Sounds okay.

So first of all Oscar, I’ll put this section of your file on screen so we can go through it and see if there are any pointers to where we might start. For example suppose we begin with your recently acquired university history degree – and very well done for that.

Thanks - I didn't do as well as expected though.

No matter. More importantly Oscar, it says in your file that you don’t see yourself as either a history teacher or an academic historian.

Well I like history obviously, but history as a career.. no not really my thing.

History is rather limited of course, we certainly understand that, especially for someone well-connected socially as you are. You also have an aptitude for getting on with people, were politically very active at university and created quite a stir on one or two occasions.

That was nothing, but I did enjoy stirring things up. It was necessary.

Those demonstrations also stirred things up didn't they?

Only one or two did. The rest were fun mainly.

Of course they were fun Oscar and those demonstrations offer us something we may be able to work on going forward. How would it be if we simply pull something out of the air based on what we already know about your aptitudes and interests. The real Oscar in other words.


For example Oscar, suppose you become a professional charlatan. How does that strike you? What is your immediate reaction to the charlatan profession?


Before we go any further Oscar, don’t knock the idea without giving it some thought. Politics for example. If you hope to steer yourself around the political world, even on the outskirts, you will be more successful as a charlatan.

But my political principles…

Do you credit, Oscar, but we have the statistics. The world of politics is very much a charlatan’s world. The evidence is unassailable.

In my opinion that is simply not true. I’m not prepared to compromise my principles and I know lots of people who are similarly committed.

In that case Oscar, you must have many competitors.


Fellow charlatans climbing the greasy pole.

I don’t want to climb the greasy pole, I’m not that kind of person. I am absolutely not a charlatan.

Oh but you are Oscar, but let us put that to one side as the charlatan career is clearly contrary to your principles. How about using your history degree as an entry point into a career as a professional pundit?


I see I’m rushing things here Oscar, so I apologise for that, but you could for example write a distinctly edgy history book, debunking some popular historical myths for example. If done judiciously this would attract attention and put your foot on the first rung of the pundit careers ladder.

I wouldn’t have a clue where to start.

Oh we at VocataBot would help you with the actual book. That’s not a problem. In your book you could discover that Henry VIII was really female for example.


It’s merely an example Oscar. We at VocataBot have many more.

But we don't need MPs who are not worth consulting

Owen Paterson row: Labour to force vote on banning MPs from paid consultancy work, says Keir Starmer

Boris Johnson has declined to apologise for his handling of the row after ex-Tory MP Owen Paterson was found to have breached lobbying rules over his £110,000-a-year private sector work - but admitted the situation could have been "handled better".

As for MPs who are not worth consulting - I'm sure Sir Keir could reel off a list of those without too much effort. 

Sunday 14 November 2021

As generations fade away

We tootled off to an antiques centre today - further than we usually go so an all day trip. We didn’t buy anything and didn’t expect to – it was just a day out and very pleasant too.

Something we have noticed over the decades is how the furniture and bric-à-brac we grew up with have been absorbed into the antiques market. Ercol furniture, sputnik lamps, Thonet chairs, Whitefriars glassware plus all kinds of stuff we always thought of as cheap and cheerful at best, or outright crap just a notch or two below that.

It’s quite odd at times. Good quality furniture with many decades or even a century of useful life left in it may go for a few tenners. It is often cheaper than modern versions bunged together with staples, glue and hardboard.

What we do see now is some of that old furniture painted to give it a more modern look. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We have a set of Victorian pine drawers which has been well painted and to our eye it works. We’ve seen much more that doesn’t.

Often, certain styles appear on the antiques market in significant quantities over a period of a few years. Ercol is an example of that. There is something sad about it because much is obviously from house clearance as generations fade away.


Queen misses Remembrance Sunday service after spraining her back - as PM and royals join veterans at Cenotaph

It was due to be the Queen's first public outing after doctors advised her to rest for almost a month following medical checks in hospital.

Could be anything at Her Majesty's age but I hope it wasn't due to Charles getting her to paint the ceiling at Highgrove. Highly unlikely but he has certainly waited a long time.

Saturday 13 November 2021

World leaders take control of the weather

COP26: World leaders reach most significant climate deal since the historic Paris Agreement

World leaders have reached the most significant climate change pact since the landmark Paris Agreement, following a turbulent two weeks of fraught negotiations in Glasgow.

With a stroke of the gavel, COP26 President Alok Sharma has brought the talks to a close after almost 200 nations finally reached consensus on how to navigate the climate crisis.

Of course they are intent of taking control of our lives, not the climate. It was never about the climate - that narrative is for the gullible and people who sit on motorways.

A moment they have avoided for decades

COP26: Climate summit approaches 'moment of truth'

The president of the COP26 climate summit said the talks had reached a "moment of truth for our planet".

As the meeting entered its final hours, he urged delegates to agree to a draft agreement aimed at averting dangerous global warming.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Dominic Cummings claims Boris Johnson was writing Shakespeare book instead of dealing with COVID

The PM's former chief of staff has made the first on-record claim Boris Johnson was concentrating on his book rather than important issues.

If only Boris had concentrated on Shakespeare and been more relaxed about the pandemic.  

Friday 12 November 2021

The Net Zero Listeners

‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,

   Knocking at the long closed store;

And his mule in the silence champed the weeds

   At the supermarket's flaky door:

And a bird flew up out of the vent,

   Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the store again a second time;

   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.

But no one attended the Traveller;

   No head from the checkout till

Leaned out and looked into his grey eyes,

   Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only a host of phantom listeners

  That dwelt in the lone store then

Stood listening in the quiet of the snowfall

   To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint motes in the aisle,

   That leads to the empty mall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken

   By the lonely Traveller’s call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,

   Their stillness answering his cry,

While his mule moved, cropping rank grasses,

   ’Neath the grey and snow filled sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even

   Louder, and lifted his head:—

‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,

   That I kept my coupons,’ he said.

Never the least stir made the listeners,

   Though every word he spake

Fell echoing through the shadows of the store

   From the one man left awake:

Ay, they heard his foot upon the car park,

   And the sound of a lone police drone,

And how the silence surged softly backward,

   When the snowy hoofs were gone.

With apologies to Walter de la Mare

Thursday 11 November 2021



Odd Connections

While sipping my morning coffee this morning, I began to wonder about home cooking and how uncertain the results can be. Is it cooked all the way through? Has it set properly? Have I used the right quantities? Does it matter if the flour is three years past the sell by date?

There is usually a degree of uncertainty about home cooking, especially mine. Buy a packet, a ready meal, order a takeaway, dine out - these take away some or all of the uncertainties. We’ll be off out for a coffee and a cake shortly. Both will be identical to what we had last time.

I don’t know why, but it occurred to me that a drift away from the uncertainties of home cooking is also a drift away from uncertainty itself. We become a little less familiar with uncertainty as a core aspect of real life. And real life becomes a little less real.

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Says the man hosting COP26

Sleaze row: UK is 'not remotely a corrupt country,' says Boris Johnson

Owen Paterson quit as an MP after being found to have breached lobbying rules and MP Sir Geoffrey Cox's second job as a barrister has now come under fire.

This from the man hosting a global project for which the word 'sleaze' is wholly, absurdly and even comically inadequate. Fascinating how framing is everything though.

My word - what a surprise that would be

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's ex-aide claims she wrote letter realising her father might leak it

Jason Knauf's new evidence was revealed during the second day of an appeal by the publisher of the Mail On Sunday against a High Court judge's decision that the publication of the letter was "unlawful".

Sceptics Don’t Fit

Heraclitus remains the honest prophet of immediacy: a mystic without raptures or bad rhetoric, a sceptic who does not rely for his results on conventions unwittingly adopted, a transcendentalist without false pretensions or incongruous dogmas.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905 - 1906)

As we know, there has never been enormous social or political enthusiasm for the sceptic. It is okay to be sceptical about astrology or politics because they are much the same, but less okay to be sceptical about a stablemate of theirs such as climate change.

Consensus scepticism is okay, but not the other kind where bad people say horrible things to undermine comfort zones. And what could be more horrible than that?

Yet scepticism is good, we cannot do without it. Anyone who at least tries to be a rational sceptic is pursuing a better view of reality to be followed by an even better view. It is an endlessly fascinating pursuit for the sceptic, but not at all fascinating for those invested in consensus. Neither does it fascinate those who peep at life from comfort zones.

To take a topical example - those awkward people currently engaged in sitting down on busy roads as a protest about climate change. Their attitude may seem like extreme scepticism of some kind, but it isn’t. A rational sceptic would cast doubt on both their cause and their motives for sitting in the road upsetting everyone else.

The road squatters are clearly immune to any form of climate scepticism. Rock solid immune. Armed with doctrinal placards they sit down on busy roads to oppose even the faintest hint of doubt. Not so much self-flagellation as flagellation of others, but that’s the modern angle for you. Voluntary silliness doesn’t count as self-flagellation.

It is an accessible form of high-profile preaching. Anyone can do it – preaching by placard. From their tarmac pulpit they tell us that their version of consensus should be compulsory for all - or modern hellfire awaits. Modern hellfire being a two degree rise in temperature. Yet no the faintest whiff of scepticism is allowed. The placard is holy writ.

The coronavirus debacle was much the same - considerable mainstream effort went into excluding sceptical input to official policy. Yet a dash of rational scepticism could have helped devise far less costly and more effective and adaptable government policies. This soon became obvious as the data accumulated. Really, instead of spouting from a lectern Boris may as well have waved placards.

We seem to have a wider problem with our insatiable demand for answers rather than possibilities, uncertainties or better alternatives to the consensus. Even when there is no answer, governments and pressure groups are apt to demand one. Inevitably the demand for answers is met by charlatans willing to provide them.

It isn’t complicated. The demand for answers is an opportunity and it works both ways. Governments know how to offer the opportunity and ask for the answers needed to bolster policies already decided. Attract those prepared to give those answers and reject those who are not. Even at an individual level the fraud does not have to be explicit. A good dose of sanctimonious confidence is usually enough.

Almost as if the complexity of the information age has given rise to a fantasy world where citizens are encouraged to demand an official answer to everything. A doomed world where sceptics don’t fit. Doomed because sceptics don’t fit.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Old Bridge


Holme Bridge, a seventeenth century packhorse bridge over the river Wye at Bakewell. It is narrow with a typically low parapet to allow laden packhorses to cross. It may seem unduly cynical to suggest this, but it is not difficult to imagine somebody in an office somewhere devising a scheme to make it safer. 

12 Worst Towns In The UK


For amusement only of course, but a reminder of how many towns there are with little to recommend them. Or maybe we expect too much gentrification.

Monday 8 November 2021

One day in August

Back in October, Palladium published a very interesting piece by N. S. Lyons on Wang Huning, the senior political theorist of the CCP.

One day in August 2021, Zhao Wei disappeared. For one of China’s best-known actresses to physically vanish from public view would have been enough to cause a stir on its own. But Zhao’s disappearing act was far more thorough: overnight, she was erased from the internet. Her Weibo social media page, with its 86 million followers, went offline, as did fan sites dedicated to her. Searches for her many films and television shows returned no results on streaming sites. Zhao’s name was scrubbed from the credits of projects she had appeared in or directed, replaced with a blank space. Online discussions uttering her name were censored. Suddenly, little trace remained that the 45-year-old celebrity had ever existed.

We may assume that the thinking of Wang Huning was behind the disappearance. The CCP leadership shares his long-held concerns about cultural decline within material prosperity and the immense political damage this could cause.

Zhao and her unfortunate compatriots in the entertainment industry were caught up in something far larger than themselves: a sudden wave of new government policies that are currently upending Chinese life in what state media has characterized as a “profound transformation” of the country. Officially referred to as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Common Prosperity” campaign, this transformation is proceeding along two parallel lines: a vast regulatory crackdown roiling the private sector economy and a broader moralistic effort to reengineer Chinese culture from the top down.

But why is this “profound transformation” happening? And why now? Most analysis has focused on one man: Xi and his seemingly endless personal obsession with political control. The overlooked answer, however, is that this is indeed the culmination of decades of thinking and planning by a very powerful man—but that man is not Xi Jinping.

That man is Wang Huning, but top down social engineering is not going too well in China. The whole piece is worth reading for that reason, because top down social engineering on a lesser scale is going on here in the UK too. 

Sunday 7 November 2021

This combustible mixture of ignorance and power


The EU Inquisition

Paul MacDonnell has a rather depressing piece in The Critic about EU censorship plans. Depressing because the usual suspects are certain to press for something similar in the UK. They probably already are.

The EU’s proposed Digital Services Act (DSA) bills itself as an update to the Union’s decade-old rules governing online commerce. But its promise of “measures which have consumer protection at their core” is misleading. Behind the consumer-protection facade lies a threat to freedom of speech in Europe. First, the DSA will hand powers of online content-moderation and regulatory enforcement to the European Commission and new national regulators. There will be a platform censor or “digital services coordinator” in each of the EU’s twenty-seven member states. Second, it will grant NGOs and identitarian organisations priority consideration when they object to content which offends their “collective interests”. And third, defining digital platforms as posing a “systemic risk” to public order and democracy, the DSA will force them to report annually their own mitigation activities. To avoid massive fines, platforms will likely save government censors the trouble of ordering the removal of content, by doing so themselves.

Well worth reading in full unless you are really determined to be cheerful.

The criteria for licensing trusted flaggers include: that they should have “expertise…in detecting illegal content” and that they “represent collective interests”. They will likely be NGOs, humanities and social sciences institutes, think-tanks, charities, and groups representing singular identities. Who exactly will be their “collective interests”? Won’t they be motivated to please them by going after increasingly innocuous content in an ever-expanding search for speech that offends them? This regulation will encourage motivated, licensed activists to aggravate social media’s digital free-surface effect.

Saturday 6 November 2021

Not much boom, boom, boom

Sounds like a subdued bonfire night round here, both yesterday evening and this evening. Usually it's boom, boom, boom with lots of crackles, bangs and whizzes, but not so much this year. 

I don't know why. Less cash, more subdued times, more organised displays. I don't know, but it definitely seems quieter.

A Suggestibility Project


Shallowly concerning

Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate whether 'deeply concerning' incidents of racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club were illegal

The commission has written to the club "to ask for more information, including a full copy of their investigation report, to determine if there has been a breach of the law".

It's a pity we don't have a cliché to be used as an alternative to 'deeply concerning'. Something where the level of concern is not particularly deep. Only ankle deep perhaps. I'd suggest 'shallowly concerning', but somehow I don't think the media would run with it.

Friday 5 November 2021

Teaching kids to live in media world

COP26 latest: '10,000' in major Glasgow protest but Downing St criticises children who've skipped school to attend - as Prince Charles turns down invite

Latest COP26 updates as the fifth day of the UN climate summit in Glasgow discusses youth and public empowerment; Greta Thunberg is among thousands of protesters on a march; Prince Charles turns down invite to climate march as he reveals family motivation to his campaigning.

This is not about the climate, but about drawing young people into an artificial world. A world divorced from the real world presented to them by their senses and their own observations. The only climate changes they have ever seen are represented by night, day, spring, summer, autumn and winter. 

Yet they are protesting in favour of political abstractions. An artificial media world they barely understand, not a world of wind and rain, snow, sunshine and changing seasons. It is not the climate they should fear but the attack on their future going on under the noses of their parents.

Zuckerberg's metaverse seems likely to take it much, much further.

Thursday 4 November 2021


We're all washing our clothes too much. That's according to a report by the Society of Chemical Industry, which says laundry has a “huge environmental impact,” and that people should do less of it, except where underwear is concerned.

Orsola De Castro is the co-founder of Fashion Revolution, a charity which campaigns for more sustainable clothing. She's also written a book called "Loved Clothes Last"...

100% I am a sniffer of clothes, it's completely human - these are the type of tricks and thinking we need to attach to modern technology in order to be efficient.

When I sort out my washing piles, I do the sniff test to see if anything can be worn again, then I split items into those that can take a lower temperature wash, those that might be still good enough for a good thorough steam rather than a full wash and those that can be sponge cleaned and de-stained without any harmful ingredients.

Two lessons in one. Not only the art of sniffing clothes, but we also learn how to be virtuously condescending.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

When the circus comes to town

It seemed to him that the essential element in these men at the top was their faith that their affairs were the very core of life. All other things being equal, self-assurance and opportunism won out over technical knowledge; it was obvious that the more expert work went on near the bottom — so, with appropriate efficiency, the technical experts were kept there.

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

COP26 propaganda has been so extraordinarily relentless that an optimist might be inclined to take something positive from it. Perhaps the propaganda has been too obvious. Perhaps the self-assurance and opportunism are too obvious. 

The blatant hypocrisy of it, the private jets, limousines, preening celebrities and blanket privilege have been grossly incompatible with an ethos of planet-saving self-denial. Saint Francis of Assisi was conspicuous by his absence. Many neutral outsiders must at least wonder if the whole thing is just a media circus. Many must know it is.

For all to see who choose to see, is the contrast between those who are supposed to bear the burden of winding back a consumer society and those who clearly have no intention of doing any such thing. Not ever. There are wild cards too, such as Joe Biden who cannot add anything positive to whatever he endorses. Wild cards such as China remaining aloof for reasons which are not hard to work out. 

Who knows how deep these things run? How the frost of rising awareness seeps into the cracks of carelessly constructed fable. Because there has been something careless about COP26. The stamp of Boris Johnson perhaps. A lax eye for detail. The climate game could yet go sour.

So many entertaining possibilities

Joe Biden 'evacuated' from COP26 summit before major pledge - crowds ordered to disperse

The President was rushed from the meeting by his secret service detail after an alarm was sounded. In one video on social media, large numbers of people can be seen being held back by security officials at the summit. The President had been in a meeting room with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jeff Bezos before being escorted out.

John Glover from the Scottish Business Insider said: "Chaos at COP26. POTUS seems to have been evacuated after entering Methane Pledge.

What kind of alarm we wonder. We'll probably never know but there are any number of entertaining possibilities. 

Tuesday 2 November 2021

Heavy-Duty Wiring

Joshua Taggart has a useful piece in CAPX. He writes about a George Monbiot piece in the Guardian evidently aimed at the naïve middle class.

In his latest piece for The Guardian, George Monbiot argued that ‘Capitalism is killing the planet‘. In it, Monbiot advocates for a ‘degrowther’ ideology, and supports a wealth tax along ‘limitarian’ lines: ‘we need to level down… just as there is a poverty line below which no one should fall, there is a wealth line above which no one should rise’.

The piece is quite short and well worth reading as a reminder that the naïve middle class is an important audience.

The heavy-handed implication is that capitalism is the root of all our problems and if we abolish it we can ‘fix’ everything. Like failed revolutionaries of the past, Monbiot and others like him believe that there is a perfect social system just waiting to be discovered, and all it takes is a revolution to end the evil reign of profit incentives and private ownership forever.

I'm not sure what Monbiot believes, but there are both commercial and political markets for the oversimplified views he peddles. If Monbiot didn't peddle them, someone else would.

As these misguided ideas become more mainstream and popular, the argument must be made for free market environmentalism, as groups like the Adam Smith Institute, the Conservative Environment Network and the Centre for Policy Studies are doing. Bad arguments must be met with better ones.

Not really. It isn't about good and bad arguments but allegiances and simplicity. Even middle class people with a good education are wired to prefer simple over complex. The wiring is particularly heavy-duty when it comes to Guardian readers.

A welcome dose of optimism from Greta



Blah blah blah is just what we want from COP26. We may wish it to be done more cheaply and with far less propaganda, but blah blah blah would be a good outcome. It's a reassuring analysis, especially coming from such an authoritative source.

Monday 1 November 2021

Coming Ready Or Not

No observer, however keen, could have guessed his thoughts; he had acquired sufficient knowledge of the art of life to hide his opinions even when he was alone; nay, more than that, he was afraid of coming to a clear understanding with himself.

August Strindberg - The Red Room (1879)

The underlying weirdness of COP26 and the whole climate game seems to be exactly as Strindberg described over 140 years ago - he was afraid of coming to a clear understanding with himself.

As if the whole aim of the climate narrative is not to bring about a desirable state of affairs at all, but to encourage voters to hide from an undesirable one where people are free to do things. To hide from a state of affairs where people are free to build futures where there is no paternal hand to keep everyone in line.

There is a powerful juvenile streak here, but many of those in the climate driving seat do not share it. The drivers drive and know where they personally are going. They go along with the rhetoric and the madness, they see how many middle class people are easily manipulated by juvenile fears so they take advantage of those fears. Malthusian fears, not new ones.

But this way lies madness. We cannot hide from what we have built here in the developed world, from our absolute need to understand where we are, how we arrived here. We cannot hide from a need to adapt, move on and be free to tackle whatever turns up.

We cannot push aside people with the ability to take us forward. There is no alternative direction other than serious decline. We cannot reject capable people, silence them and hope that totalitarian politics will somehow arrange our lives in our favour.

What’s this madness? Nothing but taking just one step further — the step that takes you into a country where every sound, every movement, every smell, every tiny action means only one thing. It’s the ordinary normal world suddenly turned completely to one purpose. Something or someone must be stopped, put out of the way, silenced. That done, all will be right again.

Hugh Walpole - The Sea Tower (1939)

That done, all will be right again. But of course it won’t. We see that already.

Maybe the Wombles weren't invited to COP26

The Wombles collaborate with Sir Paul McCartney for Meat Free Monday campaign

Sir Paul McCartney launched the Meat Free Monday campaign back in 2009. Now, The Wombles - already the world's most famous litter-pickers - are joining forces with the star to offer veggie recipes as part of their ongoing work to do their bit for the environment.

I'm not sure, but this campaign comes across as sour grapes to me. It suggests the Wombles were not invited to COP26 so they came up with this idea to grab some publicity of their own. A pity though, the Wombles seemed to be a shoo-in for the main event. 

Charles Exposes Himself

Prince Charles to call for 'vast military-style campaign' on climate change

The Prince of Wales will be speaking at the opening of the COP26 summit later today, where he will argue a "war-like footing" is needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Charles has spent decades trying to raise awareness of the growing crisis, taking after his father Prince Philip.

"We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector with trillions at its disposal," he is expected to say.

Oh dear - Charles exposes his totalitarian soul. I'd hoped for something better from the man as the responsibilities of the throne loom ever closer. Perhaps that makes me a curable romantic.