Friday 31 December 2021

Happy New Year


Happy New Year everyone
Many thanks for visiting and let us hope for better things in 2022

Dork of the Year 2021

Due the vast number of Qualifying Dorks the result this year was even more unpredictable than the end of the coronavirus debacle. After much coffee-fuelled deliberation and the consumption of a considerable number of mince pies, the Dork of the Year (DotY) committee has settled on the overall winner for 2021 - 

Jacinda Ardern

In the end, Jacinda is so bum-clenchingly awful that it wasn't a particularly difficult decision. There were no midnight deliberations, Twitter spats or much physical violence in any DotY committee meeting.

However, 2021 has been an excellent year for Qualifying Dorks and the committee felt it could not set aside the extraordinary claims of Joe Biden. We felt obliged to award Mr Biden an honorary mention in recognition of his failure to ask himself if he was up to the job of US President and get the right answer. Not a difficult question we think.

Many thanks to all those who put forward candidates. As a result, honourable mentions also go to the following, but in reality any of them could have won –

Angela Rayner
Prince Charles
Prince William
Alok Sharma
The Guardian
The US Democrats
Gary Lineker
Kamala Harris
Greta Thunberg
Private jet fliers to COP26
Neil Ferguson
The Harry and Sparkle act
Michael Gunner
Katie Price
Gary Neville
North Shropshire voters

Thursday 30 December 2021

A squalor of honest men

A Newspaper is...

A newspaper is a collection of half-injustices

Which, bawled by boys from mile to mile,

Spreads its curious opinion

To a million merciful and sneering men,

While families cuddle the joys of the fireside

When spurred by tale of dire lone agony.

A newspaper is a court

Where every one is kindly and unfairly tried

By a squalor of honest men.

A newspaper is a market

Where wisdom sells its freedom

And melons are crowned by the crowd.

A newspaper is a game

Where his error scores the player victory

While another's skill wins death.

A newspaper is a symbol;

It is feckless life's chronicle,

A collection of loud tales

Concentrating eternal stupidities,

That in remote ages lived unhaltered,

Roaming through a fenceless world.

Stephen Crane - War is Kind (1899)

It wasn't us

StoryCast '21: 'Planes falling out of the sky and nuclear reactors shutting down' - how the Y2K bug spread fear across the world

In the months leading up to the year 2000, excitement about the new millennium was mixed with fears about the impact of the dreaded "Y2K bug".

People were anxious the world was on the brink of catastrophe - with it feared planes might fall out of the sky, cardiac pacemakers would stop, and nuclear reactors could shut down.

Nothing to do with the media of course - it was that Y2K bug spreading fear across the world. Planes falling out of the sky? The Y2K bug came up with that one too. 

Reminds me of another bug spreading fear across the world. Nothing to do with the media and their useful scaremongers. Oh no.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

A potentially alarming shortage of big numbers

COVID-19: PCR and lateral flow tests could 'run out' temporarily amid surge in demand, say health officials

The big rise in coronavirus cases has increased demand for tests and it appears the government is struggling to keep up.

Coronavirus tests could be temporarily unavailable to order due to "exceptionally high demand", the UK Health Security Agency has warned .

Demand is surging as the more transmissible Omicron variant pushes cases numbers to record levels.

Lateral flow and PCR tests were both unavailable for home delivery across the UK via the government website on Wednesday morning.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Old-style variant


The Great Game

Some regard more the rigour of the game than the winning of it, but to the world the discredit of the final failure does away with any recognition of the previous care. The victor need not explain.

Baltasar Gracian - The Art of Worldly Wisdom (1647)

It is clear enough that political actors, activists, senior bureaucrats and useful idiots are drawn into something far bigger than they are. It is also clear enough that whatever draws them in also moulds their behaviour.

Lies, misinformation, exaggeration, silliness, nonsense, bombast, overconfidence, cherry picking, sentimental appeals, flattery, abuse, superstition, histrionics, virtue-signalling, greed, supercilious stupidity and outright madness. It is all there in the public arena. All that shameful fraud and cheating must be facilitated by something powerful and enduring.

Disraeli referred to politics as the Great Game and it is still useful to see the public arena as a games arena. Political culture is an immensely complex and powerful game involving people, events, ambitions, money, status and influences. Plus malice. Malice towards outsiders is an integral part of the Great Game. There must be opponents and opponents must be defeated, threatened, abused or merely ignored.

The object of the game is social status where money and status are intertwined and even failure rarely closes the revolving door of opportunity. This is the gravitational attraction pulling in an endless parade of willing players. Usually charlatans but not always. The Game also attracts hordes of useful idiots as it appears to confer status and virtue for those in the stands.

We know the Great Game is real because we constantly see political actors and parties gaming everything thrown at them. They even try to game reality. When they succeed at that, the Game becomes more serious. Ministers, MPs, senior bureaucrats, celebrities, prominent experts and activists all game the system in one way or another. The Great Game draws them in because it offers more for less compared to the real, productive world.

The Great Game generates a vast array of tactics and strategies, varying widely from a raised eyebrow to a social attitude, a media interview, a new regulation, a major piece of legislation or an emotionally stirring speech. An important tactic is to abuse or to be offended by anyone who do not play, anyone who prefers to analyse the Great Game from outside the arena.

It follows that there is no point in expecting elected representatives to do two entirely incompatible things. They cannot both play the Great Game and at the same time reform it from the inside. That would be like trying to play football to different rules. Enter the changing room, pull on the kit, run out onto the pitch and tell the referee that the offside rule has changed. Doesn’t work like that.

Elected representatives disappear into the Great Game like professional players of any sport. As with professional sports they expect to be rewarded for their playing ability. Why else would they join one of the major teams, or political parties as we tend to call them? Why else would they become players in the first place? Not to change the Game.

Monday 27 December 2021

So - just a few days

COVID-19: No more coronavirus restrictions in England before New Year, Sajid Javid confirms

The decision comes as latest figures show England reported a record number of new cases on Christmas Day, with 113,628 infections confirmed.

I wonder if tedium is addictive? Obviously it shouldn't be because then it wouldn't be tedium, but it does make a chap wonder. In Sajid Javid's position I think I'd just clear off and do something else. This game just isn't worth the effort.

Therefore tedium can be addictive.

There was a Man with a Tongue of Wood


There was a man with tongue of wood
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth it was lamentable.
But there was one who heard
The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood
And knew what the man
Wished to sing,
And with that the singer was content.

Why this poem reminds me of Sir Chris Whitty I'm not quite sure, but perhaps he is a little wooden. A civil servant doing his job. Trying circumstances I suppose, but creating those circumstances appeared to be part of his job too. In truth it was lamentable.

Saturday 25 December 2021

Christmas at Lostway

It was Christmas at Lostway Hall. Outside it snowed heavily, the grounds beyond steamy kitchen windows completely covered with a crisp, white blanket of snow, deep drifts forming against the great yew hedge planted just after Waterloo.

Inside a vast kitchen Lady Clara was to be found busily basting the Christmas goose as the servants had all left for better jobs with Amazon. Her uncle, Sir Henry Lostway, appeared at the kitchen door. He had never been inside the kitchen and even now seemed reluctant to cross the threshold.

“Clara my dear.”

“Yes Uncle Henry?” Lady Clara turned towards the kitchen door. A few drops of goose juice from the basting spoon trickled onto her sensible shoes.

“I’m sorry my dear but it must be faced,” Sir Henry continued, edging his way into the kitchen as if expecting mantraps.

“What must be faced, Uncle Henry?” Lady Clara returned to her basting.

“Clara - you cannot possibly marry Gerald.”

“Oh really Uncle Henry, you have always disparaged Gerald, you know you have. What I simply cannot understand is why you dislike him so. He rides, he shoots, he went to the right school.”

“Notwithstanding all that Cecilia, I am persuaded to think that in your heart you know why I do not approve of him.” Sir Henry inspected one of the kitchen chairs but decided to continue standing. “I do not dislike Gerald personally, but honesty compels me to add that I do not approve of him.”

“Yet I still fail to see why, Uncle Henry.”

“In which case, forgive me for being blunt Celia my dear. It pains me to say this but for your sake I must state the case without embroidery. Gerald is an activist.”


“An activist my dear.”

“An activist? Oh dear.” Apparently undisturbed, Lady Clara replaced the goose in the oven. It was a large goose, enough for at least twelve people, but it was all they had.

“Yes I am afraid he is an activist my dear. There is absolutely no doubt about it. He waves ungrammatical placards and shouts at people in public.”

“Shouts at people in public?”

“Yes. He shouts - bellows really. In public.”

“He shouts and waves ungrammatical placards in public?”


“Oh no Uncle Henry he can’t be an activist - not Gerald.”

“I’m so sorry Celia my dear, but the truth of the matter must be faced for your sake. Your dear mother would have horse-whipped him of course but she was made of sterner stuff. Pity about the lions out in Tsavo but it took two of them to bring her down. We may be proud of that.”

“Yes Mummy would have scared off Gerald within minutes. An activist. Oh dear.”

“You know what you must do Celia. Gerald is due to arrive any minute, assuming he braves the snow.”

“He probably won’t brave the snow Uncle Henry, but I’ll take my horse whip to the drawing room just in case. Although there is one problem.”

“What is that my dear?”

“Well – it is rather difficult Uncle Henry.”

“Come now Clara, you need have no qualms about telling me.”

“Well – I am afraid Gerald quite likes being horse-whipped.”

“Doesn’t surprise me at all my dear. He wants to be an MP.”

Quiz question for the future

COVID-19: New coronavirus restrictions 'could be in place until late March' under measures examined by scientific advisers

Government scientific advisers say new restrictions could be needed until 28 March to limit hospitalisations and deaths due to COVID-19.

This could be a clue to future pub quiz questions. 

When did the term 'scientific adviser' come to be synonymous with the term 'totalitarian stooge'?

I assume it was quite recent, but pub quizzes of the future will probably require a more precise answer to earn a point.

Friday 24 December 2021

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. 

Thanks to all who venture to read these oddities, especially the kind souls who leave a comment or two. 

Makes it all worth while.

Making an effort

Went for a stroll round town this morning, weather was too foggy to bother going further. Cafés were busy and the one we like best was full so we popped into Costa for a coffee and mince pie. After that it was a stroll round the park and back home.

The only café which wasn't busy was of course the Co-op supermarket café. It's a good size but there was only one person in there. On display were a few cakes which appeared to be left over from yesterday, a desultory attempt at cooked breakfast and a few shortbread biscuits. The café itself looks like a canteen.

We quite like the Co-op, but how they keep that café going I've no idea. All it needs is some attempt to make it more welcoming, but it doesn't work and on Christmas Eve with loads of people around it was virtually empty.


COVID latest: Not SAGE's job to 'spread gloom or optimism', says Vallance - as data suggests Omicron milder than Delta

People with Omicron significantly less likely to develop severe symptoms, according to analysis; government will not announce any post-Christmas restrictions this week; government's chief scientific adviser says it is not SAGE's job to take policy stances.

A strange comment. To my mind, the whole pandemic debacle was a highly one-sided struggle against excessive pessimism. 

Thursday 23 December 2021

Long distance shopping

A cousin of mine lives alone here in the UK. She also lives a long way from the rest of the family and has become forgetful when it comes to shopping. Her son and daughter-in-law live in Canada so to get round the shopping problem my cousin's daughter-in-law organises regular online deliveries from Sainsbury's.

Really there is nothing remarkable about that and it is a simple enough thing to do these days, but it does highlight the power of the internet.

Frantic Dash

Frantic dash for festive food sees HUGE queues outside supermarkets and shops two days before Dec 25 after Boris gave green light on households mixing and studies revealed Omicron IS milder Covid variant than Delta

We visited two Co-op supermarkets today in two different towns and neither was particularly busy. Nothing to do with last minute panic shopping in our case, but there were no queues at all. 

Maybe Co-op folk are better organised than everyone else. Yes, that must be it.

I Spy


From Dave R

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Turkey's Unravelling Economy


A clear and comforting summary of economic woes in Turkey. Comforting because it reminds us that our government could be much worse. 

Maybe a Hickman line comes next

COVID-19: Israel to offer fourth coronavirus vaccine dose to over-60s, saying it is first nation set to roll it out

It comes as the first known death of a patient with the Omicron strain was confirmed in Israel on Tuesday.

With a Hickman line, people could just pick up the next dose from the Co-op together with a nice bit of something for the evening meal. Something fishy seems appropriate.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Pills, pills and more pills

Antidepressants might be largely ineffective, study suggests

Antidepressants should be prescribed less routinely by doctors, scientists have said, after a study concluded there was no strong evidence that the drugs were effective...

New research has indicated the side effects many patients suffer from the treatment may be disproportionate to the benefits it gives them.

Analysis of trial data did not establish any "clinically relevant" difference between volunteers given antidepressants and a group given a placebo, according to a review published in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin...

England has one of the highest rates of antidepressant use in the world, with one in seven estimated to be taking the pills. More than 79 million antidepressant drugs were prescribed in England 2020-21, up from 43million in a decade.

Not a surprise, but 79 million antidepressant drugs prescribed in England 2020-21 is a heck of a lot. Even when we consider what the government is putting us through at the moment, it's still a heck of a lot. A comment on the piece was interesting though. A long-term user who seems to be saying that the placebo effect works.

Been on them for over 25 years. Not sure that they do very much. I think sometimes the fact you're actually prescribed something by the Doctor improves your mood.

Makes a chap wonder where on earth we think we are going. Maybe there is some kind of connection with pessimistic politics, because optimism isn't an easy sell politically. The media aren't too keen on it either.

Out of the blue

This morning Mrs H and I found ourselves discussing the people we have known who were struck down by incurable cancers and eventually died. Not a cheery subject but someone we know slightly has a terminal cancer diagnosis which came out of the blue during the summer.

Not that terminal cancers usually arrive with no warning at all. There are symptoms which seem mild enough at first until they become worse and worse before the grim diagnosis is made and accepted. Then the inevitable adjustments are made because they have to be.

What struck Mrs H and I during this casual discussion over coffee and a mince pie is how many such people we’ve known over the years. We tend to think terminal cancer happens to other people because life does have to go on. Yet over a lifetime we have to see it as a normal enough way to go because unfortunately it is.

Our grandson had a school friend who contracted terminal cancer at a very young age and eventually died after some years of futile treatment. There have been quite a few others, young and old. Our daughter, the daughter of a family friend, an aunt, another aunt, Mrs H’s mother and a next door neighbour from decades ago who contracted pancreatic cancer and went downhill with almost startling speed.

We all know about these personal disasters and we know it could happen to anyone. Nobody is unaware of this grim aspect of real life. We cannot be unaware of it. Yet here we are being induced to panic about a virus which is very unlikely to strike down people below a certain age.

It is as if we are being persuaded to set aside what we have learned about some of the worst uncertainties of real life. As if we are being persuaded to set aside what we have learned to deal with because we must learn to deal with it. As if we are being persuaded to set aside our healthy human need to be robust.

Monday 20 December 2021

Gathering winter fuel

With cold weather hindering progress in the construction of a concrete wall along the Sino-North Korean border, North Korean authorities are reportedly hanging empty bottles and cans on a recently erected wire mesh fence as a temporary expediency to prevent defections.

A Daily NK source in Yanggang Province said Thursday that the authorities erected a wire mesh fence along the entire border early last month. By mid-month, they had finished hanging empty bottles and cans on the fence. He said the builders erected the temporary fence since people could try to defect while work on the concrete wall slows as the ground freezes due to the cold.

Sounds bad enough, but it gets worse.

Meanwhile, the authorities are facing issues keeping the engineering units deployed to the border supplied with necessities given that their deployment to the border has been longer than expected.

The source said the engineering bureau — which reportedly conducted zero preparations for winter — has asked soldiers from rich families to go on leave and come back with coal, firewood, rice and other food. He said the engineering bureau was relying completely on those soldiers for its winter preparations.

That's right - they are using coal. We're doomed.

A Christmas Song


From Bill R.

Sunday 19 December 2021

The Christmas Shopping Rush


The driver of this car was left red faced after ploughing into a Derby Sainsbury's store.

Officers from Derbyshire police were called to the Osmaston Park Superstore in Allenton yesterday evening, Saturday, December 18, after an unexpected item was found in the store.

Fortunately no one was hurt in the incident, apart from maybe the driver's pride.

In a tweet, Derbyshire Roads Policing Unit said it was investigating the incident, but early indications suggested poor driving on the part of the owner.

As well as avoiding the possibility of finding an Audi blocking the aisle, online deliveries have made a difference to our Christmas. Not having to find a parking space, not having to trundle around a packed store, not having to listen to horrible Christmas music. Yes it makes a significant difference.


All part of the Great Game of course, but Lord Frost's resignation letter is of some interest. For example.

Brexit is now secure. The challenge for the Government now is to deliver on the opportunities it gives us. You know my concerns about the current direction of travel. I hope we will move as fast as possible to where we need to get to: a lightly regulated, low tax, entrepreneurial economy, at the cutting edge of modern science and economic change. Three hundred years of history show that countries which take that route grow and prosper, and I am confident we will too.

Boris has shown no interest whatever in a lightly regulated, low tax, entrepreneurial economy. It is incompatible with Net Zero but Boris seems completely sold on that policy. It has him by the balls we might say.

We also need to learn to live with Covid and I know that is your instinct too. You took a brave decision in July, against considerable opposition, to open up the country again. Sadly it did not prove to be irreversible, as I wished, and believe you did too. I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.

To my mind there have been indications of some resistance to extreme measures related to Covid. Things could have been worse, but that is always the case whatever we do. Things could have been better and there is still time for some improvement before Christmas. Sack Sage would be a fine Christmas present for example.

Bring Back Cnut

Lateral flow test results 'expire very quickly' as expert warns that government advice must be updated

The warning comes as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant means tougher restrictions could soon be introduced - after experts said there are likely already hundreds of thousands of new infections every day.

For some reason I'm constantly reminded of King Cnut demonstrating how impossible it is for even a king to command the tide to stop. He was advised by experts too, but the story is that he chose to get his feet wet demonstrating the limitations of expert advice. 

Saturday 18 December 2021

Life through a Guardian lens

Need a warped, tortured or evil character for a Hollywood film? Cast a British actor

Nick James, former editor of Sight and Sound magazine, wonders if the “otherness” of British stars can also operate as a shortcut, or at least a shorthand, so that the American viewer knows this is a character they should be worried about. “It’s possibly also that the current need to therapise the bad guys, to give them a broken home type motivation (as in Joker), requires that the US audience detect strangeness in them. Brits are strangeness in this context,” he said.

I'd expect Democrats to be a much more potent route for discovering fine examples of warped, tortured or evil strangeness. 

Friday 17 December 2021


A few days ago we were having a very pleasant restaurant lunch with relatives. The service was good, the food was good and we had a most enjoyable time as we always do. However we were all mildly amused by incredibly loud shrieks of laughter from a nearby table.

This was a table of oldies like us. Not particularly noisy people, but one woman had a very loud, shrieking laugh which would briefly drown any other conversation. She laughed at anything too. For example one chap on the same table said –

No I’ve changed my mind. I won’t have the crème brulée, I’ll have cheese instead.

Not side-splittingly funny, but this drew a loudest shriek of laughter imaginable. Could have been a private joke of course, but that would mean it was a repeat where a smile might be the response. But no – a full blast shriek of laughter.

Strange really. Do people know how deafening they are?

Bugger Bognor - Or Not


A well-produced video on the death of George V in 1936 and his doctor’s diary admission that he terminated the King's life with morphine and cocaine injections. As some of us may remember, this only came to light fifty years later in 1986 and by then media reaction was muted.

For those with an hour to spare it is easy listening, rather like listening to the wireless instead of reading a book. An interesting video, there is also something remote and other-worldly about the story which holds the attention.

As for drawing conclusions, it is a curiously powerful reminder that the establishment is still with us behind facades which are only mildly plausible. It may be home to some ghastly shits but they are hardly ever ejected into our world.

Liberal Democrats hail 'watermelon moment'

North Shropshire by-election live: Liberal Democrats hail 'watershed moment' - as Tory MP tells Boris Johnson: 'One more strike and you're out'

The latest updates and reaction as the Lib Dems pull off another by-election surprise by winning in North Shropshire.

Blimey, the voters of North Shropshire have rejected one lot of politicians and voted for another lot with different rosettes. That's a shock.

Thursday 16 December 2021



Saw this jay on the lawn the other day. We often see jays while out walking, but this is the first time I've seen one in the garden. I'm not sure what it was after. Cotoneaster berries possibly. There isn't much else there apart from a few old windfalls which the blackbirds seem to enjoy.

Recall Notice

We recently received a recall notice for a batch of face masks bought from Amazon during the coronavirus debacle. Apparently the masks have failed an EU test because they don't trap anywhere near enough airborne particles.

Gosh I didn't spot how useless they were. They barely restricted my breathing, didn't absorb much moisture and didn't cause my spectacles to fog up in cold weather. I thought that was down to clever design. 

This summer I cleaned out the garage, a dusty job for which I used one of my DIY masks. I certainly wouldn't have used one of the recall batch. Can't think why, just a feeling I had.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Away Day


We tootled off to Bakewell in the MX5 today. Top down, blue skies and lots of sunshine. Breakfast and coffee at one of our favourite cafes, a wander around the antiques centre and a stroll by the river. 

We find it's a good idea to get away from the national nonsense every now and then. We get away from it virtually every day. Even a trip to the Co-op on a rainy afternoon is far better that the dreary soap opera performed by Boris and co. 

Nothing will ever convince me that they aren't basically bonkers.

Dork of the Year candidates

As you may know, previous winners of the Dork of the Year (DotY) award have been

2020 Prince Harry
2019 Jo Swinson
2018 The British Electorate
2017 Michael Heseltine
2016 Mark Carney
2015 Ed Miliband
2015 Naomi Klein

All worthy winners, but what about 2021? Unfortunately the coronavirus debacle has caused a good deal of disruption in the Dork of the Year committee this year. As usual there are numerous Qualifying Dorks even though Joe Biden currently appears to have an unassailable lead.

However, we do have a preliminary list of Qualifying Dorks which may be expanded as suggestions arise.

Joe Biden
Matt Hancock
Angela Rayner
Prince Charles
Prince William 
Alok Sharma
The Guardian
Jacinda Ardern

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Monster Raving Loony disappoints

Monster Raving Loony North Shropshire by-election candidate on second jobs and key priorities

Will you take any second jobs if you are elected as MP for North Shropshire, and do you believe MPs should be prevented from taking second jobs/consultancy roles?

I would not take a second job if I was returned as the MP for Shropshire North.

My only job would be looking after my constituents.

Consultancy roles should be outlawed, but if a GP or such should win, no reason why he should have to resign his job.

What are the biggest problems facing the constituency and what would you say needs to be done to address them?

The biggest problem for Shropshire North is finding the right person that they can believe in, I believe that I am that man. Re-phrase, I know that I am that man!

A lost opportunity to say something worthwhile. As a supposed political lunacy expert, has he not noticed some rather obvious examples of political lunacy going on under his nose? Not that he expects to be taken seriously, but having nothing to lose does offer some obvious opportunities.

Numbers - get yer numbers 'ere - all genuine numbers

COVID-19: Omicron hospital figures clarified by officials after Dominic Raab gets numbers wrong in two TV interviews

On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News there were 10 individuals in hospital with the new Omicron variant. Dominic Raab then said there were 250, but later told the BBC there were nine. Officials say there are in fact still 10.

Monday 13 December 2021

The miserable dystopia

Boris Johnson slumps 13 points behind Keir Starmer in most capable PM poll

Boris Johnson has slumped a startling 13 points behind Sir Keir Starmer on who would make the best prime minister, an exclusive poll for the Standard reveals.

The two main political parties have it all sewn up, yet when one screws up it doesn't mean the other will be any better. If the coronavirus debacle fails to teach us that lesson we'll never learn. Starmer would be hammered with the same incessantly bonkers demands from all the usual suspects plus the outright lunacy represented by Angela Rayner. 

Starmer has no plan to escape it. No way to avoid the miserable dystopia we are confronted with and apparently no inclination to avoid it. 

Tory Steve Baker accuses Boris Johnson of 'creating a miserable dystopia' by re-imposing Covid curbs as he says 'at least' 60 Conservative MPs will vote against 'Plan B' - but Keir Starmer says Labour will back the rules

Whatever the question, Starmer isn't the answer.

Sunday 12 December 2021


The slices of bread and butter, which they give you with your tea, are as thin as poppy leaves. But there is another kind of bread and butter usually eaten with tea, which is toasted by the fire, and is incomparably good. You take one slice after the other and hold it to the fire on a fork till the butter is melted, so that it penetrates a number of slices at once: this is called toast.

Karl Philipp Moritz - Travels in England in 1782
It's something I miss, making toast by the fire. We made fireside toast quite regularly while growing up in the fifties. We used a brass toasting fork which worked quite well although the toast did sometimes fall off into the fire. 

In colder months, the fire had other uses apart from keeping warm. Staring into the flames, conjuring up magical images was one. Roasting chestnuts was another. Disposing of flammable rubbish was yet another. 

Oh well, back to modern times and unromantic central heating. Everyone will have noticed this but it is still interesting. For example, our central heating system always has the thermostat set for a background temperature we find comfortable around the house. For the living room we need it to be a little higher, especially during long winter evenings, so we warm that room with the log burner or gas fire.

When it snowed recently and when has been particularly cold outside, I tend to wear another layer of clothing while pottering around the house. Today it's much milder outside so I've discarded that extra layer. Yet the central heating maintains the same background temperature whatever the outside temperature. Feeling warm enough is partly psychological. Which we've always known but it is interesting.

While growing up in the fifties, our house had no central heating, just the coal fire in the living room, yet I don't remember being cold. I remember using my fingernails to scrape the ice from the inside of our bedroom window on a winter morning and at night I remember curling up in bed until the bed warmed up, but this was part of life.

Similarly, living room chairs were grouped around the fire because that was where the only warmth was in winter. The back of the room could be distinctly cooler. We wore more wool of course such as wool jumpers knitted by Mum. Maybe they were warmer than modern clothes or maybe we were just more active. Activity makes quite a difference. It doesn't matter how cold it is when I chop the wood for the wood burner, I end up warm.

All this does sometimes make me wonder if we have become accustomed to houses which are warmer than they need be, although cold houses probably helped kill off old people not so long ago. Maybe central heating is partly responsible for old people ending up in care homes.

Saturday 11 December 2021

The dog in the night-time

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle – The Adventure of Silver Blaze (1892)

There are equally curious incidents whenever the official climate narrative is preached. Silent dogs in the climate night tell us there are gaps in the narrative. For example, there is no such thing as climate science and there are no climate scientists.

The subject misleadingly called climate science is a patchwork of many specialisms. There is no one scientist who understands why and how the global climate changes in the medium to long term. It’s a gap in the narrative so it isn’t mentioned and the incurious don’t see it.

This dog leads to others with even less inclination to bark. Why is the climate narrative almost always presented by journalists, politicians and celebrities? How did Greta Thunberg ever become a climate guru? Why is the credibility question not raised every time she makes a speech? Even Dr Watson would spot that one.

To expand - why is it okay for the climate narrative to be presented and promoted by people who do not even pretend to be experts? Prince Charles for example. Virtually any politician for example. People sitting on the M25 for example. A whole pack of dogs which aren’t barking at all – not even the occasional yap. Another gap in the narrative.

Who is the climate equivalent of Einstein? Where is the equivalent of E=mc2? Where is the equation or the infallible mathematical model supposedly linking global temperatures to atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

Surely, however complex it may be, a simplified representation of the equation or the model would have be depicted on many millions of T-shirts by now. A name would do. The Alfred E Neuman Equation for example, but there is no name. Yet again the incurious don’t notice the silent dog in the night.

The real problem we have is with the incurious.

And snow is a thing of the past

Owning a car is outdated '20th-century thinking' and we must move to 'shared mobility' to cut carbon emissions, transport minister says

  • Owning a car is outdated '20th-century thinking', transport minister says
  • Trudy Harrison, 45, is also Boris Johnson's parliamentary private secretary
  • She said the UK should move to 'shared mobility' to cut carbon emissions

Friday 10 December 2021

The unfolding of the inevitable

But government neither subsists nor arises because it is good or useful, but solely because it is inevitable.

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

A hopelessly drunk man climbs into a bath of baked beans at a wild party. Everyone else is drunk to and nobody notices while the guy in the bath drowns in baked beans. The story makes headlines all around the world.

A prominent UK cabinet minister is accused of directing government contracts towards his personal friends over a number of years. Naturally the story causes outrage and eventually the minister resigns.

Environmental activists rope themselves high up on an oil company skyscraper but one of them falls to his death. His family sues the oil company for billions of dollars.

Three invented stories, but not unfamiliar in their general appeal to mass media.  They will fade quickly from the public arena as other stories unfold. Yet we focus on them for now because the media temporarily direct our attention to them. It’s what they do.

All very familiar, but governments have to govern and to do that with reasonable success they have to exert considerable control over public perceptions. Effective government would be one way to do that. Propaganda is easier and vastly more popular.

Our sense of what is important in the public arena is largely dictated by what is most available for discussion, comment or amusement. That is where the mainstream media squat – directing our attention to what they make available. Directing our attention to the opinions they make available too.

As prosperity and the internet have both expanded over recent decades, the governing classes and the mainstream media both seem intent on preventing uncontrolled sources of information from seeping into the public arena. Otherwise, the peasants may stray beyond the narrative fences erected by major herders. As many do stray, but clearly many do not.

There is an obvious government fear that faith in official narratives could become even weaker than it is already. The favoured responses are censorship, psychological manipulation and attacks on sceptics or anyone else who looks over the fence.

Senior government bureaucrats obviously wish to be the arbiters of how much government we can be forced, persuaded or conditioned to accept. To achieve that they need popular apathy and they get it, but why is there so much of it? Perhaps because many people see government activity as the unfolding of the inevitable.

Two Views



Thursday 9 December 2021

E pluribus unum - so long as I'm the one

Revealed: What Hillary Clinton's victory speech would have been if she'd beaten Donald Trump

Her speech addressed the division the "long, hard campaign" had brought about.

"My fellow Americans, today you've sent a message to the whole world," Clinton says. "Our values endure, our democracy stands strong, and our motto remains 'E pluribus unum.' Out of many, one."

"We will not be an us vs. them country. The American dream is big enough for everyone," she added.

When the mendacity is so blatant and so contemptuous of popular understanding we realise yet again why Trump won.

Three Questions


Made me smile but I don't know the answers, especially to question three.


Following one of those sudden impulses, I decided to count my shirts this morning. I seem to have far too many cluttering up the wardrobe - some of them must be quite old now. My favourite black denim shirt is at least ten years old - I confirmed that by trawling through some old photos. 

But is ten years a great age for shirts? To my eye, that denim shirt looks as if it should be okay for another ten years at least. Maybe it's an age thing, hanging on to old shirts. 

Trousers are a different issue entirely. Chopping wood, hacking trees back, gardening and general DIY seem to age them quite quickly for some reason.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Pharma as a Service

Joakim Book has an interesting piece in the Brownstone Institute on possible changes in our relationship with the pharmaceutical industry.

In the last few years, business models known as “X-as-a-Service” flourished. Most major companies turned their previous one-time products into subscription-based ones, improving, they said, customer retention...

The structure of pharmaceutical products in the U.S. and many other Western countries relies on the precautionary principle: before a drug is approved and launched on the market, it must go through several rounds of testing. The drug has to be safe, at least relative to the condition it is intended to ameliorate, and effective at doing that...

What if they could speed up the process and convince the wider public that everyone needs this new product? In a single shot – pun intended – massively expand the market for their novel product. What if, even better, it seems that everyone also needs supplements of this drug every six months or so?

Not an unfamiliar possibility thanks to the coronavirus debacle , but the whole piece is well worth reading.

But think about the numbers for a minute. And consider whether this is a Bootleggers-and-Baptists situation going on.

Gosh - I bet nobody thought that might happen

'Hard-hitting measures coming - buy NOW!': Inside the criminal groups using disinformation to sell fake COVID passes

Criminal groups are capitalising on restrictions across Europe to sell fake EU coronavirus passes.

Now we'll need more bureaucracy to tackle the problem. More stringent security measures too. Strange how these things unfold. 

Tuesday 7 December 2021

The Little Moon Hut

Chinese scientists spot 'mysterious hut' on far side of the moon

Scientists and engineers working on the Chang'e 4 lunar mission are going to investigate the unusual object using the Yutu 2 (Jade Rabbit) rover.

That little hut could be an alien equivalent of Thoreau’s cabin. A place to get away from it all. I'm quite envious, it seems like the perfect location for some quiet contemplation, but now the media of the world could descend on it and spoil everything.

Imagine living there, reading, gazing up into space every now and then, contemplating the mysteries of the universe. No constant media barrage, no political correctness, no creeping totalitarian nonsense, no Christmas, no coronavirus debacle. Until one day...

Snugglers II

Some years ago I wrote a post titled Car park snugglers about situations where we park the car in an almost empty car park, but when we return we find a snuggler has parked next to us in spite of loads of empty spaces nearby.

We had a couple of examples recently, both in the same vast shopping centre car park. We habitually park at the far end of the car park where all the empty spaces are, but after two recent visits we returned to the car to find another car snuggled up next to us. 

In one case it was a family plus one grandparent unloading a pushchair and  baby carrier while trying to keep an eye on toddlers dodging around the car. Why not park one space further away and give themselves more room? I don't know. 

I spotted something similar in the more populated area of the car park. A driver was carefully edging his way backwards and forwards into a space between two other cars. He was trying to park in a tightly packed row even though there were loads of empty spaces only a little further away. He could have simply driven into one of many spaces where the adjacent spaces were also empty.

In the earlier post, Sam Vega described it as Something along the lines of herd behaviour providing protection and I'm sure that's right. Along those lines there could be a fairly obvious link with behaviour seen during the coronavirus debacle. Herd immunity at the psychological level where the immunity provided is protection against being conspicuous. Masks do that - wearers become inconspicuous. 

Monday 6 December 2021


TCW has an entertaining piece by Weaver Sheridan. He lampoons Cambridge University's student newspaper and its adoption of trigger warnings on articles.

CAMBRIDGE University’s student newspaper Varsity is putting ‘trigger warnings’ on articles to avoid upsetting its readers.

The policy meant that a story in a recent issue about the spiking of student drinks on a night out was preceded by: ‘Content note: This article contains discussion of spiking and sexual harassment.’

In another article, about people dressing as Zulus to attend a bonfire, readers were warned: ‘Content note: This article contains descriptions and discussions of racism and blackface.’

A couple of Sheridan's parody trigger warnings should be enough to encourage anyone to read the whole thing.

1931: Millions jobless as Great Depression deepens

*Content note: This article contains references which may set you wondering if your Mickey Mouse degree is a waste of three years and the thick end of £60,000 and if you’ll end up stacking shelves at Tesco.

1939: Hitler invades Poland

*Content note: This article contains an account of a controversial method of achieving a united Europe which you may find distressing.

Socialism Illustrated


Sunday 5 December 2021

We'll run out of popcorn

Labour suspends Angela Rayner's aide amid 'rising hostilities between the deputy leader and Keir Starmer'

  • Jack McKenna is under investigation on suspicion of a 'personal data breach'
  • Claims he briefed press about potential sacking of another party staff member
  • Mr McKenna, who is head of Ms Rayner's communications, denies the allegation

The question remains - why is Angela Rayner the deputy leader of a major national political party? She is a symptom of serious political decline yet still the party attracts votes. Maybe the best we can hope for is that this is the Labour party falling apart. 

Alternatively. the political class as a whole is becoming irrelevant and this kind of upheaval is not particularly important.

Might not work with the new Mini though


'I balanced a Mini on my head'

A strongman who became famous for balancing a Mini on his head has said he wants to reach 100 world records before retiring.

John Evans, 74, who started out as a labourer on building sites, added determination and willpower have got him through the challenges.

Mr Evans, from Derbyshire, said he has raised "well over £250,000 for charity" from his head-balancing act which has taken him around the world.

Saturday 4 December 2021

Could be counterproductive though


There is a point to not doing this

All cats in UK will have to be microchipped under new rules

The government is set to introduce new rules saying that all pet cats in the UK must be microchipped by the time they are 20 weeks old - the equivalent of five months.

It will mean lost or stray pet cats are more likely to be reunited with their owners and returned home safely.

The change comes after a people were invited to give evidence and discuss the matter, with 99% of people giving their support for the measure.

Owners found not to have microchipped their cat will have 21 days to have one implanted, or could face a fine of up to £500.

As ever it seems curmudgeonly and obstructive to criticise such a move, but there is a point to not doing it. At some point official interference in daily life may reach some kind of limit where the ability to adapt comes to an end. Some would say we are well on the way to reaching that point now.

It may also seem curmudgeonly and obstructive to suggest that it won't stop with cats. Yet whatever the next step may be, there will be a next step. This is how bureaucracies operate.

Friday 3 December 2021

Density is no excuse

An inescapable aspect of working life is that some people can be both professionally successful and remarkably dim. To my mind, this piece by Oliver Kamm makes the point very well. It concerns Labour MP Richard Burgon.

Among the trivia of modern politics is that, since its recreation in 1955, the constituency of Leeds East has had only three MPs, all Labour. I find it a pleasing antisymmetry that the first was Denis Healey, who possessed one of the most formidable intellects in British public life, whereas the seat is currently held by Richard Burgon, who does not.

We all make mistakes, and it’s forgivable that the list of Burgon’s gaffes is very long indeed. He famously urged people to turn up to a rally he was speaking at in Port Glasgow, only to inadvertently reveal that he believed this historic town, which he’d omitted to look up on Wikipedia, was the same place as Glasgow. Making what he thought was a decisive critique of New Labour on Question Time in 2019, he declared “I’m fully aware that Tony Blair was Prime Minister between 1997 and 2010”, which is not entirely true...

Kamm moves on to Burgon's equivocation about Chinese treatment of the Uighur Muslim population of Xinjiang

Yet even knowing all this, I had till this week overestimated Burgon’s intelligence, as I’d looked merely at the evidence of his capabilities rather than anything deeper. On an LBC discussion yesterday, he was asked six times whether he believed the Chinese communist regime had committed genocide against the Uighur Muslim population of Xinjiang. Burgon’s response was that ‘there’s things that the government of the United States has done historically that we profoundly disagree with’, and spoke of Hiroshima. His response was worse than evasive. It was abhorrent.

And yet -

This sort of activity has nothing to do with progressive politics. As a longstanding Labour voter, I hope that Burgon will suffer ostracism for his comments. I don’t think he’s a bad man, but as well as raw intelligence he lacks imagination, curiosity and simple human empathy. Density is no excuse for indecency.

Look on with dismay

Tory culture wars have made UK less safe for gay people, says Chris Bryant

Speaking to Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking, produced by the BBC, Bryant said that while he did not believe Boris Johnson was personally homophobic, attempts to stir social divisions inevitably meant people from minority groups would be targeted.

“They’ve learned this trick in America from Trump and, in the end, culture wars will always pick on those who are slightly different and that means the gays, the Jews and the blacks and that’s always the list that crops up whenever a populist government gets into power,” Bryant argued.

So often political obsessives appear to speak without listening to their own words. Of course the political game is a culture war. Bryant's party never plays it any other way - wouldn't know how. Anyone looking for rational discourse must look on with dismay at such witless nonsense. I'm surprised the BBC... I'm not.

Massive Change


As we know, much like Windows and Tesla cars, our language undergoes frequent upgrades. As we see from the above headline, the meaning of the word ‘massive’ has recently been upgraded to include ‘disappointing’ as one of its definitions.

On seeing this relatively new upgrade, many people are bound to wonder if their own language is up to date and if they should download the latest version. A quick test is the latest language entry for words such as ‘integrity’.


Obs noun. Scheduled for cancellation.

If you are aware of any other meaning for the word ‘integrity’ then you are using an obsolete language version and may wish to consider upgrading.

Thursday 2 December 2021

Reshuffle Reminder

CapX has a short piece on Keir Starmer's recent reshuffle. It's yet another reminder of how little talent there is in the Labour party. It would surely count as political progress if the party were to fall apart.

Is Labour’s new look Shadow Cabinet a government-in-waiting or a misjudged attempt to appear relevant?

On a first pass, it certainly seems more likely to be the latter...

The left loves talking about ‘institutional’ and ‘structural’ problems, but few are as intractable as the lack of talent on Labour’s benches at the moment. That is both cause and consequence of the party’s humbling at the 2019 election: put simply, there are only so many MPs Starmer can pick from. Still, in holding fast to the likes of Lammy and the white van man’s bête noire, Emily Thornberry, he gives the impression of a stroppy teenager who refuses to accept the assignment at hand because it isn’t the one they wanted.

Not a pleasant task, but every now and then it is worth reminding ourselves how ghastly the Labour party is. Whatever else Boris may be, he has not fallen as low as this lot. 

Absolutely Not


To my cynical eye, too many charities are more akin to woke businesses than charities. It's a pity because we've donated to charities and also raised money for them in the past, such as standing outside supermarkets with collecting tins. We wouldn't do it now.

Wednesday 1 December 2021


Palladium has a longish but interesting piece on liberal education written by Ash Milton and Stephen Pimentel. 

In February of 1869, Charles Eliot began the final overthrow of old Harvard. That was the month he published the first of a two-part rallying cry in the pages of The Atlantic. It was the culmination of years of work, including a tour across Europe’s most prestigious educational institutions, a venture on which he had staked his inheritance. In his articles, Eliot laid out the battle plan to transform America’s elite universities from custodians of a traditional curriculum steeped in the classical languages to institutions ready to create the next generation of American scientists, industrialists, and professionals...

The triumph of Eliot’s ideas was only possible because of the much broader, societal revolution that had already begun to change the values and goals of America’s national elites. What gets taught at universities and schools will directly impact a society’s power structure. Because of this, elites who participate in governance tend to favor the intellectual fashions that preserve the interests of those in power. These ideas in turn come to dominate and shape institutions of higher education. In other words, there is always a feedback loop connecting power and education, in both good and bad regimes.We aren’t yet in the period of great reforms. The feedback loop still holds: applied history will only inform higher education when it also informs a new regime. But now is the time for private networks and seed institutions. Under these circumstances, it is Petrarch’s impulse that should inspire those who exit the universities and look for a different regimen by which to cultivate their souls.

This creates something of a paradox. While there are valid critiques of America’s elite educational institutions, the feedback loop between power and education means these institutions can never lead any useful reforms of education. After all, who would implement the reforms?

It is well worth reading the whole piece. It left this reader with a degree of optimism in spite of our current swamp of woke insanity. Perhaps it is worth plugging away at the absurdities. Perhaps it does plant seeds.

We aren’t yet in the period of great reforms. The feedback loop still holds: applied history will only inform higher education when it also informs a new regime. But now is the time for private networks and seed institutions. Under these circumstances, it is Petrarch’s impulse that should inspire those who exit the universities and look for a different regimen by which to cultivate their souls.

Very Stringent

Covid: Omicron may require 'very stringent response', say Sage scientists

The impact of the Omicron variant on the UK is "highly uncertain" but may require a "very stringent response", government advisers have said.

The BBC has seen leaked minutes of a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies held on Monday.

Not merely stringent. but very stringent. Presumably only one step away from very, very stringent. 

It may be my imagination but whenever we hear something from Sage, I seem to hear shrill squeaks of self-important delight.