Monday, May 31, 2010

The Lord's Perambulation

Notably, the crowd was today allowed to wander onto the field at lunch on the final day of the England-Bangladesh Test at Lord's, old skool style. It being Lord's, this retroprogressive freedom was called a 'Perambulation'.

The Lord's Perambulation seems to me the very essence of CamCleggy Liberal Conservatism. I like it very much and I wish the Telegraph would stop trying to strangle it at birth.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dead animals

I've been spotting a lot of dead animals on my lunchtime strolls. Some living ones too, but you can get a much better look at dead animals. You can really spot them.

Had an interesting chat with the Local Character yesterday. He confirmed that there really is a stag in Pipley Wood. It mostly dwells in the long grass between the Wood and Dave's pig fields, apparently. He also informed me that most of the living deer I've been seeing are actually muntjacs. But here are some possible non-muntjacs in a picture I took using my expert Nature Photography skills:

The Local Character is pro fox hunting but agin' most of they silly bugg-rrs who come up here in full camouflage an' everything with shotguns to shoot bloody squirrels. Foxes have to die one way or the other and hunting is better than shooting, for the foxes and for the human soul, he more or less said.

Anyway, back to the dead animals I've been spotting. This, I think, is a dead weasel. The only evidence I have for it being a weasel rather than a stoat is that weasels are weasily spotted and stoats are stoatally different (Update: according to Sophie, it is in fact a stoat. Further update: but she's wrong). Either way, it's definitely dead.

And now a very dead badger. It's too revolting to display without a warning, so I've put it here. Don't click if you're faint of heart or weak of stomach.

WEEP NOT! I mean, weep not, for the badger or the possible weasel, however, or else weep for all things: they had their brief spark between the eternal darknesses and Time is meaningless for them now. We go on.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Opening sentence of the week

Psychotherapy was arguably the most important innovation of the 20th century.

Alain de Botton (reviewing Couch Fiction by Philippa Perry).

Useful word, "arguably".

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mozart was rather a late developer

by comparison. For official Brit Jnr fans.

(Membership is available on request.)

Frontline services

The other week as I hacked up one of my favourite postprandial lanes I observed a small van nestled into a passing point. In the driver’s seat sat a man with reflective yellow jacket and a moustache and a clipboard. As I walked by him I nodded. He did not nod back but instead made a note on his clipboard.

The following day I walked the lane again, and this sign had appeared.

Yes, I think we can probably find £6 billion of cuts somewhere in this state of ours.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I don't have much to say about the all-round unpleasantness of the Fergie sting/entrapment, but I did wonder, following the similar snarings of Lord Triesman, John Higgins etc, just how many of these traps are set? Do these 'investigative journalists' (ha ha) have a 100% success record, or do we only see the hits, and numerous celebs refuse their dirty money? Is there, in other words, some good left in this world?

Compare and contrast

Two items from the Sunday Times:

There are many important people who don’t want to hear the good news, who see globalisation and uncontrolled trade as a threat to everything they hold dear. They include our national Eeyore, Prince Charles, and his landowner chums of the Soil Association, who say that what they call “sustainability” can only be achieved through self-sufficiency and a rejection of agricultural science. As Ridley observes, based on a whirlwind tour of every sort of society at every point in history, self-sufficiency is just a posh word for poverty: the two are inseparable. It is, of course, those furthest from starvation who find this fact hardest to appreciate.

Dominic Lawson reviews The Rational Optimist, How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley

The ultimate solution, he says, is for us all to live less decadently — growing our own food and recycling instead of replacing goods: “People must drop their standard of living [so] the wealth can be spread about. There’s a long way to go.”

Actor Jeremy Irons launches his bid to be the green Michael Moore

Friday, May 21, 2010

Poached eggs

‘Poached eggs!’ bellowed our host. Let’s call him Bob. It was midnight and my father and I were standing, drunk and uncomfortable, in the front room of Bob’s bungalow, the cheapest B&B in the village of Pendeen and first stop on our infamously slow and episodic walk from Lands End ‘to John O’Groats’. We were back from a decent session at the North Inn, still dazed following the encounter with a mad Cornishman which forms the best anecdote in my armoury but which alas, due to the Profanity Policy, I cannot relate here.

The bungalow’s layout required us to tiptoe through the middle of Bob’s lounge to access our bedroom. Our hearts sank as we entered. Bob and his wife were waiting up for us, in twinned armchairs and matching grins. We were the only guests and, it appeared, Company. Somehow, terrible lights came on. Here and there bits of floor and furniture could be glimpsed through the knickknacks. ‘A ha!’, said Bob firmly, to signal that we would not be allowed to escape. ‘The great walkers return.’ We hem hemmed appropriately as Bob hauled himself to his feet. He had the girth and much of the look of Michael Winner; as, indeed, did his wife. ‘I suppose you’ll be wanting the Full English tomorrow?’

We concurred with as much enthusiasm as we could muster; the kitchen could be seen, it was full of knickknacks. “Oh what a surprise, I thought you’d go for poached eggs….” Thus Bob manoeuvred to his anecdote. “Poached eggs!” he bellowed. “I’ll tell you a funny story about poached eggs.” Here he began to chop the air, Tommy Cooper-style. “We had a guest here a few years ago, middle-aged chap, well-to-do. Had two poached eggs on toast for breakfast. So I gives him his plate, and he looks at it…And he looks at me…And he looks back at the plate…” (here I became acutely aware of the fullness of my bladder). “And he says, you know what, these poached eggs remind me of something…..See I’m a plastic surgeon and I do breast implants that look ju-” Bob’s punchline was interrupted by his wife’s roar of laughter. Bob roared louder. I roared as best as I could. My father roared as best he could. Bob’s wife roared even louder still; I noticed that she had the eyes of a frightened calf. All things must pass. In time we made a bolt for it, to the temporary sanctuary of our Spartan, spider-infested twin cell, to dream of infinite winding coastal paths, porcelain flamingos and the condemned man’s hearty breakfast.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The new Coalition document has a whole civil liberties section, which includes a pledge to "introduce a new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences."

I like the cut of its jib, but what could this 'mechanism' be?


Nick Cohen (whose link to the Yard sports the hover text description “Brilliant on everything except God” - a succinct, unwitting self-description) has a post about radical Islam and the right-wing loon Melanie Phillips, under which commenter James Bloodworth writes:

She might have a better argument against moral relativism if the biblical morality she was advocating had the ability to build a better society than secularism. History tells us otherwise. Her argument might also hold more weight if Christianity itself did not consist of an, albeit tamer, version of what the leading Al Qaeda thinkers are themselves advocating. That’s not by any means to equate figures such as Melanie Phillips with Al Qaeda, rather obviously; however, I suspect a fully Christianised West would be a lot closer to what the Islamists dream of than a strong secularised one.

Though he was occasionally prone to it himself on the issue of God (we all are sometimes, it’s unavoidable), the late Duck accurately argued that Platonic thinking is one of the biggest hindrances to understanding the world. James Bloodworth suggests that society consists of some degree of compromise between two opposed Platonic ideal worldviews: Secularism and Religion. This bears no relation to historical reality (secular liberalism is rooted in a world of Christians) and even as an analogy it makes little sense and has almost no practical application. History, being the sum of the affairs of humans, is unknowably tangled and complex and, as with America, whatever you try to say about it the opposite is also true.

I don’t know what, if anything, will kill radical Islamism (probably a mixture of moderate Islam, military force and some other fad coming along); but I’m confident it won’t be a post-religious secular utopia in which, thanks to the unanswerable rational arguments of secular liberals like Nick Cohen, Chris Hitchens and James Bloodworth, all religions are washed away, radical Islamism being just one more with them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A surge of ebullience and pep

A surge of ebullience and pep last night as I noted that in the supermarket you can now buy 12 loratadine tablets for less than 90p. When Clarityn had a monopoly on this marvellous antihistamine drug a few years ago it was 6 tablets for a fiver. Loratadine, along with a liquid called fluctisone-summat wot I squirts up me snoz, has utterly transformed my quality of life in spring and summer (or Tally and Spate), seasons that used to be crippled by wretched blasted rotten hayfever.

Thus our lives have sneakily improved in so many areas over the last decade, even as New Labour tried to spoil them with endless legislative micromanagement. I have been attracted to the notion of a fallow year of Government, where no new laws are passed for 12 months; let the land recover, like Glastonbury.

But now I find that our boys CamClegg are going to go much further than that, and will have a burst of glorious unlawmaking.

According to the BBC, Clegg will today make a speech about how the Coalition aims to…

"transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state".

This would include scrapping the ID card scheme and accompanying National Identity Register, all future biometric passports and the children's Contact Point Database and ensuring CCTV was "properly regulated" and restricting the storage of innocent people's DNA.

He will also accuse the previous government of "obsessive lawmaking" and pledge to "get rid of the unnecessary laws" and "introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences".

He will also pledge to ask the public "which laws you think should go" as they "tear through the statute book".

I agree with Nick.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Henry Moore Potato

Imagine my suprise and delight last night as I opened a bag of baking potatoes and discovered that one of them had grown itself into a tuberistic homage to Henry Moore.

Above, Potato; and below, a Henry Moore

If anybody else has any pictures of vegetables shaped like famous artworks, monuments etc, do send them in. It will be like an upmarket version of "That's Life".

Monday, May 17, 2010

Argument Clinic – some advice for Liberal Democrats

The luxury of being in political Opposition is that you don’t have to worry too much about reality, which is a series of compromises, fudges and lesser evils. Being able to attack without needing to defend is safe and fun, if rather hollow. This is the biggest and bravest sacrifice the Liberal Democrats have made by going the whole way with the Coalition.

I tuned in to Thursday’s Question Time – a programme I usually shun because the audience is comprised of such self-righteous, self-selected, clap-happy fools – to see how the panellists would cope with the unusual circs, and it was interesting to note how badly Simon Hughes, representing the Lib Dems, performed. Eventually I decided that this was because he found himself in entirely unfamiliar territory. If Opposition is a luxury, think how it has been for the Lib Dems, revelling in Double Opposition, free to attack both Labour and the Tories at will and to adopt the kind of crazy policy (Euro, Trident etc) which has to be instantly ditched if Office and reality approach. Simon Hughes’s entire debating career has been spent as a sniper; now he found himself a target. The discomfort of novelty is the only kind excuse for his lame performance because the arguments were all on his side. Essentially Hughes faced a four-pronged attack. He should have trounced all comers but he was only comfortable dealing with the Labour representative, Lord Falconer.

The easiest prong to deal with should have been the idealist Lib Dem voters in the audience who accused him of ‘betraying their principles’ by joining with the Tories. This is twaddle and could have been countered by pointing out that in practical terms the Lib Dems chose the route that would mean having some (a surprisingly large amount) of their manifesto implemented rather than none of it. Of course practice never trumps principle for idealists so he should then have gone on to observe that the key principle of the Lib Dems is that consensus governments can work and that the interests of the country should not be sacrificed to score party political points in our rotten, confrontational system. Refusing to join a coalition on the grounds of principle would therefore have resulted in a self-defeating paradox and only a damn fool would even make such an accusation. Unfortunately the damn fool making it was a 17-year old politics student still young enough to think that ‘hypocrisy’ is something that matters – in other words, exactly the kind of person from whom Hughes has spent a lifetime extracting applause. In his confusion he made a hash of it.

The other two prongs were loonies of the left and right commentariat. Hughes could easily have played them against each other, but he didn’t and furthermore made the critical mistake, which surely no experienced Government representative would have done, of treating them seriously. Melanie Phillips, representing the loony right, described the coalition as a squalid stitch-up of self-interested parties. The correct method of dealing with her would have been a patronising tone, a dismissive wave of the hand and a ‘your cynicism says much more about you than it does about us, you old dinosaur’.

Slightly more of a challenge was someone called Medhi Hasan, speaking for the loony left. This man is, apparently, the political editor of The New Statesman. Dear me, what a prize prune he is. A ghastly applause-chaser, all witless punchlines and self-important table-thumping. Both stupid and sarcastic (the most irritating combination), never listening but always using the time in which others talk to plan what he’s going to say next. No argument or reasoning would have worked on this muppet, the only solution was to ignore him. Hughes made the schoolboy error of attempting to engage, and lost. He should have just let Hasan rant on and on until he got his applause, paused for ten seconds while it died down, and then opened with: “Anyway, back on Planet Earth…”

That, I’m sure, is how Chris Hitchens would have done it. The Lib Dems find themselves having to debate at a disadvantage for the first time in their political lives; they could do a lot worse than call the Hitch for some coaching.

England win 2010 World Cup

I refer of course, to the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup, which England won yesterday. It is the first cricket world trophy England have won in 35 years of trying, having been defeated on all four of the previous occasions they’ve made it to a final.

If you haven’t been following the tournament, I can only tell you that watching England has been surreal. Only last summer, England were ODI luddites, supposedly watching the rest of the world sail over the horizon. This month they steamrollered everybody including, in the final, an Aussie team which the Old Batsman had compared to both muscle-bound juggernauts and unkillable vampires. Rarely can there have been such a rapid transition from no-hopers to world-beaters.

I can only put it down to Cameron-Clegg, and I trust that Paul Collingwood’s collection of blonde public schoolboys (including my Jacuzzi-pal Luke Wright), gnarled county pros, South African refugees and stolen Irishmen will get a celebratory audience with that Toothsome Twosome.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tonight show stitch-up

Following Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas’s courageous self-outing there is an interesting television documentary to be made about the reasons that professional sport lags behind the rest of society in its toleration of homosexuality. Unfortunately, last night’s Tonight programme, Afraid to be Gay wasn’t it. The ITV show instead attempted to prove that society is still intolerant of homosexuals by using precisely the same disingenuous tactic employed by Panorama to prove that Britain is still racist.

They took a couple of pretty gays, dressed them in tweedy boyband suits and Jedward haircuts and with hidden cameras followed them parading about the streets holding hands and snogging, until they had collected enough footage of name-calling from male teenagers to ‘shock’ us. The ITV producers performed this stunt not in London or another metropolis where the sight of a gay couple wouldn’t raise a single eyebrow; but in Wigan town centre, carefully selected for being a chav hotbed. In other words, they went fishing for idiots in a pond swarming with them and, not surprisingly, they caught a few. In Wigan town centre, merely sporting spectacles and wearing anything other than trackie bottoms and a crew cut will be more than sufficient to elicit name-calling from teenage male chavs; the snogging was quite unnecessary.

The treatment of the lost British white underclass is a national disgrace. Ignored by the political class, especially Labour which should be its champion, it has been left to stew and turn septic in a hopeless, inescapable swamp of welfare dependency and lawlessness. I hope this is what Cameron-Clegg mean when they talk about ‘deep social problems’. The chav-fishing method employed by Panorama and now Tonight says precisely nothing about our national attitude to race and sexual orientation – which by any reasonable comparison either to previous decades or to other nations, is exceptionally tolerant – but everything about the media class’s attitude to the white poor. They are either exploited and dehumanised by Jeremy Kyle or vilified by the London hipsters for hate crimes, and every year the chasm between the underclass and the rest of us widens, and the prospect of any particular poor boy or girl successfully leaping it diminishes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Man’s Gotta Do A Dirty Job Sometimes

Jon Hotten, fellow founding member of the Steve Bruce Literary Appreciation Society, has suggested that there’s a one-way ticket to Easy Street to be had if you can only write a song like The Best a Man Can Get, or the Baywatch theme I’m Always Here, or St Elmo’s Fire. In other words, a rockin’ soundtrack to an 80s Brat Pack movie that will subsequently be used in a razor ad and played endlessly on American commercial radio for the benefit of men who drink Budweiser.

This strikes me as being extremely plausible; and luckily the whole thing came to me, fully-formed, in the shower this morning. What do you think? To achieve the full effect you should clench both fists and sing it as loud as you can through your best constipation face.

A Man’s Gotta Do A Dirty Job Sometimes

Down at the docks I work all day dockin’
Dockin’ all through the day
But at night you know I’m gonna be rockin’
Rockin’ the night away (yeah)

All day long my ripped muscles are achin’
And my shirt it is so tight
But tonight you know I’m gonna be makin’
Makin’ love to you through the night (yeah!)

Oh yeah it’s tough on that jetty
My denim shirt might get kinda sweaty
But a man’s gotta be what a man’s gotta be…

A man’s gotta do a dirty job sometimes
Like only a man can do
Oh yeah but a man needs a wooooman
And baby I need yoo-ou!
Together we can climb that hillock
They’re never gonna stop us now
And we’re gonna swim that ocean
We’ll make it through somehow… YEAH!

The bossman will try a-breakin’ me down now
Under a blazin’ sky
But like an eagle that’s white and brown now
I’m gonna be soarin’ so high (yeah!)

Cos I’m a man, oh yes I am, baby,
Oh yeah and it’s tough sometimes maybe
But a man’s gotta be what a man’s gotta be…


MIDDLE EIGHT (stolen from Going Home, the theme to Local Hero by Dire Straits)

Oh yeah I’m gonna break on thru now
And there’s nothing that we can’t do now
Cos I got me and baby I also got you




A dirty job, a dirty job baby!
Only a man, oh yeah a man can it do!
When the going gets tough now, and when that sea is rough now
Oh yeah when shove comes to push now
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush now
A stitch in time saves nine,
cos I’m gonna be crossin’ that line
To do a dirty job
A dirty job baby
A man’s gotta do it
A dirty job...


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Extraordinarary tone of the joint press conference/love-in, wasn't it? Did you see the comedy double-act bit where they where asked about Cameron having said that his favourite joke was 'Nick Clegg'. I have to admit, my flinty heart was warmed. If you'd asked me before, I'd have said that Coalition would be all tight lips and forced politeness and awkward handshakes. The weirdest thing is that this seemed much less like acting than when they were scrapping each other in the Prime Ministerial debates.

Welcome to the Quantum Flux (official)

Politics eh? Bloody hell. It’s fair to say that this remarkably generous Coalition changes everything about the political landscape, and raises the intriguing possibility that, if it works, the Lib Dems might not be able to untangle themselves from the Tories at the next election, leaving a two-party system and Labour…where? Possibly very strong if they get it right. But in the meantime, did you see Newsnight? Was there ever such trio of prize turnips as Ben Bradshaw, Diane Abbott and Polly Toynbee, all lamenting the failure of the ‘progressive’ coalition. It’s come to something when Toynbee is the most sensible person on a panel. And I loved Cameron’s muted entry to number 10. It was the opposite of Blair, very retro. God knows how this is all going to work but it probably will.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ah what the hell...

...this is a great country after all.

Fanatics (three different ones)

I have a horrible feeling that the party-fanatical elements of Lib and Lab think they really can form a Losers' Coalition which, because it is 'progressive' and therefore Good, has the moral legitimacy to run the country. This is very disconcerting.

I have in recent days been much disconcerted by fanatics. Fanatics are identifiable by their humourlessness, an intense stare and a conviction that not being 100% with them is being 100% against them. These are people for whom every conversation is a full-on, look-me-in-the-eyes discussion; at their homes you couldn’t just doss around watching telly, making idle chit-chat and cracking wise, you’d have to always be engaging. Fanatics wouldn’t be that bothered if you were killed, if you were also wrong. They end up fried and full of hate.

Alastair Campbell is a very frightening man; not because of his bullying nature or political intelligence, but because he isn’t fully human. Here (via Sean), is Adam Boulton finally losing patience with him. It does no good, of course.

And then there is Caroline Lucas MP. At this election Parliament lost its Respect MP but gained a Green one. It’s much the same thing. Lucas is particularly disconcerting because she is so obviously a Type: her vocal intonations, joyless haircut, even her feline eyes and cheekbones – you can tell everything about her straight away. This is rare and unsettling. Such people are usually the dictators of odd little radical committees that meet in art centre cafés or backrooms in libraries; they don’t normally win Parliamentary elections.

Finally, good old Dickie Dawkins, the man who equates every criticism of his own personal views with a direct attack on the entire history, method and project of science, believes that we should immediately have another election under a system of proportional representation. Well he just would, wouldn’t he?

State of play

So the Lib Dems are, irresponsibly and against the wishes of the voters, using Labour to try to squeeze whatever they can out of the Tories; and Labour, disgracefully and against the wishes of a great number of their members, are trying any avenue at all that might keep them in power. The so-called ‘progressives’ have thereby squandered in three days whatever goodwill had been created by Friday’s speeches.

Does anyone have an alternative analysis of this?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hung up

John Gray, perhaps the most curate's egg pundit about, wrote a post-election article about 'bigoted' Tory MPs which strikes me as largely a load of old blather, like the worst bits of Straw Dogs.

But to the extent that it isn't blather, it does raise more awkward questions about our current electoral system versus proportional representation. First-past-the-post encourages broad church parties, where the fringes of the Labour left and Tory right are kept in check by the moderation that is perceived by the leadership to be needed to win elections. Under PR, there would be a much greater incentive for the partially-loony to abandon middle-ground politics and join or form wholly-loony spin-off parties. Those who call for PR generally assume that progressive, left-of-centre governments would dominate as a result. But might not the whole parliamentary centre of gravity shift rightwards? If we follow the percentages at this election, by some distance the biggest winners outside the big 3 would be UKIP, and the BNP gained twice as many votes as the Greens.

The theoretical arguments for PR are irresistible. The practical arguments against it are immovable. This is why liberals support it and conservatives oppose it; it's not just that each thinks their favoured system would deliver them power. In the long-term we'll probably end up with a greatly diluted version designed to deliver results as close as possible to those expected from FPTP, but with a few bones thrown in the direction of superficial 'fairness'.

Funky little shack

In old age Muggsy Spanier, thuggish legend of swing and widely known as ‘the cornet player’s cornet player’, renounced jazz and in one late interview claimed that there were only three truly great pieces of music in recorded history: Auf dem Flusse from Franz Schubert’s Winterreise song cycle; Frühlingstraum, also from Franz Schubert’s Winterreise song cycle; and Love Shack by The B-52s.

Spanier was far from the only aficionado to sing the praises of the Georgia band’s 1989 hit single. The consensus amongst scholars holds that the verse:

Sign says.. Woo!....Stay away fools,
'cause love rules at the Lo-o-ove Shack!
Well it's set way back in the middle of a field,
Just a funky old shack and I gotta get back.

is the greatest lyric in post-war English-language songwriting. Mad academics have long pored over B-52s songs for hidden meaning. Frank Key has argued convincingly that the line “I’ll give you fish!” from Give Me Back My Man is an obvious response to the demand of the sailor in Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam, when he cries “Hey! Bring me more fish!”

Other experts have claimed that ‘Love Shack’ itself is another reference to Brel, being a deliberate corruption of ‘L’oeuvre de Jacques’, though this is clearly pushing it.

Next week: 401 things you might not have known about Jive Talkin’ by the Bee Gees

Above: The road sign in Athens, Georgia, which is immortalised by the B-52s in 'Love Shack'

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Paxman, Coalitions

The celeb boat party was the most tone-deaf element of the Beeb's election coverage but Paxman wasn't far behind. Following his terrible performance and the success of the leader debates I hope, rather than expect, that the suits will realise that we're due for a break from the relentless 'why-is-this-lying-bastard-lying-to-me' approach. It should be obvious now that a blanket application of aggression works against honesty in answers and anyway, like viruses mutating to beat ever-stronger antibiotics, politicians just get better at dealing with it and saying less. On Wednesday's Newsnight, Paxman's constant interrupting of the Electoral Commission lady went beyond parody; but he was worse yesterday morning, doing the same to a series of grandees and largely impartial pundits who were genuinely trying to make sense of the situation. Paxman has no notion of when to turn it off, or even down a bit. The second and third TV debates showed that you can allow politicians to speak uninterrupted and they will seriously discuss the issues. Unmoderated Paxmanism is not only rude to the interviewee, it insults the viewer by assuming that he can't listen to everything said and then make up his own mind about whether the bastard was lying or not. Surprisingly often, they're not.

I'm with ZMKC in regarding yesterday as a rather great day in British politics. Not only did the BNP get their due thrashing, the three leaders gave two and a half excellent speeches which 80% restored faith in politicians. I like Cameron more and more (and even more having watched, thanks to Gaw, his exposure of Paxmanism back in 2005). Clegg is in a remarkably pivotal position, but he doesn't really have a choice. They're not going to get PR so all that matters to the country is that a Con-Lib alliance tackles the Debt Which Passeth All Understanding. I hope Broon won't be a toad in the ointment, as half his speech yesterday suggested he might be, and in the way that ghastly party fanatics like Harman and apparently Hain would be. This is an astonishingly critical time for British faith in politicians: a ConLib alliance would do wonders; a LibLab one would be unthinkable and I wouldn't care a hoot if Paxman were let loose on that.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Democracy 3: Buzzards and bicycles

The usual hike at lunchtime, taking a break from the Beeb. At the peak of the hill a buzzard pushed out of a tree clump directly below me and drifted, within boomeranging distance, to a clump further down. At least, it may have been a buzzard; alas I had no Nige there to help identify if it was a buzzard or a hawk or a kite or a golden eagle or a wren or a cormorant or a condor or a pigeon or a duck. Then three mountain-bicyclists hoved into view. They were youngish thin bespectacled modernish gents who looked like they probably voted Lib Dem. The first one was saying to the second one: “…he murdered me on the hills. I could beat him on the downhills and flats…I outspin him every time…. Though he might not have been putting the juice in….” The third one gave me a wide beam and a Good Afternoon. Well we are all brothers today. It even might be Con-Lib soon. We all put our cross in the box and hope for the best, with our hobbies and dimly-glimpsed opinions on this fragile shell of a planet. Only 36.2% of us voted Tory but we must all be conservatives or nothing makes sense or has any worth.

Democracy 2: Cleggmania

Before midnight, an eternity ago, Andrew Neil on BBC 1 conducted a bizarre four-way interview at an election cocktail party on a boat with Tony Parsons (cocky), Joan Collins, Victor Meldrew and Armando Iannucci, during which the last complained that the British people had, essentially, chickened out of voting for the Lib Dems even though they wanted to. This confirmed what I had dimly suspected about Iannucci – that he is a staggeringly arrogant git who hates people and thinks everyone but himself is an idiot. Luckily he also makes funny programmes. Contra Armando, the dismal failure of the Lib Dems to live up to the hype reveals (1) that “who do you think did well in the debate?” is a different question to “who will you vote for?”; and (2) that people didn’t vote Lib Dem yesterday because the Lib Dems have all the same bad policies they had at the last election.

Meanwhile, the Scots and Welsh, who have devolved Parliaments, continue to prevent the Conservatives forming a Government despite the clear will of the English people that they should. Thus we English continue to oppress the Celtic people in our tyrannical way, just as we have since 1746 when our Royalty order-…oh theyre is so much more a could say but a canny be arsed…

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Yard update

The Yard has asked me to tell you that he's back blogging, or intends to be soon, at this shiny new location.

He's also taken up retrogressive photography, as you can see from his homepage.

In Ilfracombe, hungover.

There’s a nice little new aquarium in the Devon seaside town of Ilfracombe which takes you down, tank by tank, from the source of the Taw to the sea and to Lundy. I’ve always liked aquaria, there’s a deep peace in those tanks. However, I can’t say I recommend a trip to Ilfracombe when you’re battling a hangover and a howling gale is blowing. If your head is fugged and pounding there are probably better trips. And there’s a decent possibility that a gull will steal your chips.

In Ilfracombe the shop shelves are spattered all with tat. The drizzle-sodden westerly will whip away your hat. The sea’s a touch too churning when you’re feeling out of sorts. The bolder of the tourists sport anorak and shorts. In Ilfracombe the cliffs are grey, the sea around them slops. Damien Hirst’s café/restaurant is a slap across the chops. In Ilfracombe the cliffs are grey, not white like those of Dover. In Ilfracombe, in Ilfracombe. In Ilfracombe, hungover.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Surrealist campaigning

The BBC website displays some lovely surreal electioneering photos here. The top one, of Cameron pointing, has a sort of Kit Williams feel to it, and there is an ineffable sadness, a found poetry perhaps, about the way Paddy Ashdown stands on that tiny little ladder.

Damn right we'd be goin on n on n on about it

The Google-conquering post about Why the Scottish Hate the English continues to attract comments. Most are very poor fare indeed but I must draw your attention to this corker from Anonymous, who writes in a Comedy Scots accent:

btw that isnt even the proper reason y we dont like the english

1. if someone scottish wins an important event such as a gold medal at eh olympics or suhin hes british, as soon as he loses hes scottish again.

2. if england win anythin suddenly they are the best in the world and the media go on n on n on about it

3. yeez have yer heads shoved so far up americas ass

4. yeez think ye r superior to every other country

5. everytime the world cup comes around ye hink yer gonna win when ye always seem tae get put out after the group stage

6. yeez hink there is suhin wrong wae scottish money when its clearly legal tender

7. aw yer wee 'chavs' hink theyre ment

theyre is so much more a could say but a canny be arsed

I have to say it’s hard to take issue with any of the specific objections raised by Anonymous Comedy Scotsman. This is by some distance the most coherent and fair dinkum anti-English comment yet. Certainly point 5 is both topical and irrefutable, as our footballers prepare to head out for South Africa this summer.

Now, nobody can accuse me of lacking patriotism, but I’m also reasonably sane and like all true football-lovers I’m always much relieved when England have been eliminated from the World Cup or the Euros. The pattern (and I cannot put it more succinctly than did the Old Batsman: unconvincing progress to the quarter-finals before elimination on penalties to either Portugal or Germany) is inevitable, its torment blunted only by its sheer familiarity. Once Ingerlund’s players have gone - and with them our dim, embarrassed hopes of a scrap and scrape to undeserved glory - it is possible to relax and enjoy what remains of the sporting spectacle.

However, the comment above has lit a jingoistic spark. I hadn’t fully considered the implications of an England World Cup victory. For however much pleasure that unlikely event would bring us Englishmen, the pain for the Scots would be tenfold. We could suffer the insufferable triumphalism, the knighthoods (arise, Sir Wayne), the Trafalgar Square tickertape parades, and even the politicians’ bandwagon jumping, simply by reminding ourselves that on the wrong side of Hadrian’s Wall the Jocks are gnashing their teeth, tearing at their scarlet locks and praying for Armageddon. It is almost too much to hope for. Come on England!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


The BNP have pushed a leaflet through our door. Their local candidate, a pensioner called Brian (left) with an amusingly giveaway Hitler moustache, makes no mention of race in his Dear Voter letter, but promises to increase the state pension and immediately withdraw troops from Afghanistan. In stark contrast, skeletal teacher Rae Lynch of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition promises to increase the state pension and immediately withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

The far Left and Right could be factions of the same party. Perhaps when we complain that the three biggies are 'all the same' we should remember that the other available slots on the political spectrum are, apparently, occupied entirely by evil and/or stupid parties, such as the Greens. Or, as with Monty Python's election, there are only the Sensible and the Silly Parties.

That said, I'm reluctant to include the Lib Dems amongst the Sensible Parties. As for Labour, Nick Cohen attempts to dredge up a few half-arsed reasons to vote for them. That they're not any of the Silly Parties is the best he can manage - and one can't help the feeling that this is classic Cohen contrarianism, appearing as it does in the Guardian which has of course turned yellow. The Tories are the least worst option because they alone lack the ideological/paymaster-dependency obstacles that would prevent them making the necessary cuts to address The Debt Which Passeth All Understanding, which our great Chancellor-cum-PM has generously bequeathed to the nation during his 13 years of Prudence.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

Talking of daughters, for God's sake don't accidentally catch the new John Lewis ad if you have a young one, or an old one, or indeed if you are a human. A terrible cheap trick, reminding us about Time; and it uses that bloody Billy Joel song. If I wanted to well up and stifle sobs every evening I'd simply spend them listening to Handel and endlessly re-reading the last couple of chapters of The Leopard, thank you very much.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A short poem

This, in the words of Janis Joplin, is a poem of great social and political import.

Croyde Bay
by Brit

I carried my daughter down to the sea.
The sea was cold
and great
and old.