Late Life Crisis - May 2021

Once upon a time I was promised, or thought I had been promised, a certain position. The promise was not fulfilled, and I was miffed. During supper one evening  with a friend I explained my miffedness. My friend rejoined that I had made the mistake of believing that someone meant what they had said. He pointed out more precisely that in life people do make promises on which they don't deliver. 

So still broadly in this area of discussion, do you believe that if Boris Johnson made his 'bodies pile high' statement, then he believed what he said? The commentator Charles Moore (someone with whom I often disagree) called it right here by pointing out: 'Many people express themselves extremely in private, in the heat of the moment, or sometimes because they have the sort of mind which likes to provoke argument as part of the search for solutions'. I am prone to the odd private utterly unPC statement, which I try in my mind to justify as a letting off of steam in response to the more stifling positions put forward within identity politics, although I must add that it can alarm my thirty-something children.

Reverting to Moore, he as biographer and disciple of Margaret Thatcher pointed out that before going out to sign the agreement that turned Rhodesia into Zimbabwe she said to her private secretary: 'I am not going to shake the hands of terrorists' (meaning Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo), but of course she did. 

So that could be credible to blow away criticisms of Johnson's piece of loose language, and perhaps more widely many other Johnsonisms to which we have become accustomed. Some even suggest that the random chaotic statements are part of an intelligently thought out strategy designed to not pin down the PM - stuff you, accountability. 

But the correlating difficulty I see is where Johnson wants to be 'Prime Ministerial', and where if he does not mean what he says, or refuses to be held to account for what he says, then that is a problem. So how about this, words utttered on his becoming Prime Minister:

'And so I am announcing now - on the steps of Downing Street - that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all, and with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve'.

You probably did not need me to italicise three of those words, and you probably did not need me to suggest that you review the statement against the Queen's Speech this month.

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I had two rings going (if an induction hob can have rings), and the oven. Ok, I was only making sausages, baked potato and green beans for supper, but it felt like cooking. As was evidenced by the carnage of the hob and work surfaces afterwards...

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"Hey, IKEA will start selling pre-loved furniture'.

'You mean second-hand'.

'Well, I might mean 'second-hand', but I can't say second-hand'

'Why?'

'Second-hand doesn't sound so good: it diminishes the IKEA brand''.

'But pre-loved doesn't make sense. Was the item once loved but no longer loved? Or once not loved but now loved, in which case why are you getting rid of it?'

'You are being too literal'.

'Sorry'.

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In the absence of mass participation events, the Davey family celebrated 1st May with a 10k run on a set route around Regent's Park. Younger daughter strolled round in 48 mins 49secs, elder daughter smashed her Personal Best with 57 mins 54 secs, and their Old Dad did a creditable Personal Best with 56 mins 49 secs. The latter will probably come as a surprise to some people who know me. PS As and when elder daughter has more chance to train then she will beat me with ease PPS For the sceptical, Strava results can be disclosed on request for verification.

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Photo below shows exactly how people are meeting up outdoors. Yeh.

Outdoors

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The answer to the Labour Party's post-election problems is......something like New Labour, a credible centre ground offering. Oops, we've already tried that. And we've tried Corbynism. In the absence of a coherent positioning for the time being. the best tactic would be holding the Government to account ie what the Opposition is there for. Remember that Johnson cannot dine out on vaccines for ever. Hartlepool voters may like Johnson's boosterism - aren't we all suckers for optimism? - but they are not fools. They will expect some hard and early evidence of the levelling up that has been promised. Remember the phrase used after the 2019 General Election, that the Red Wall constituencies had 'lent the Tories their vote'. With 10,000 odd people in Hartlepool voting Brexit Party in 2019, the result in 2021 was hardly a shock. Labour needs to get its act together in order to be the effective Opposition UK democracy needs....provided it can decide what its act is.

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As part of the decolonising debate, identifying some established words as Anglo-Indian has become fashionable. I reckon I could make a plausible case for 'lurgi' - a form of cold or similar - except that it was invented by the Goons (we celebrate this year the 70th anniversary of the first Goon Show). 'Who they?', many of you cry. I will quietly withdraw, humming a chorus of the Ying Tong song.

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I scoured the Manifestos for London Mayor. Aha, here was one I liked. I agreed with every pledge, especially the one that under this person's Mayoralty they would build one more unit of social housing than the biggest millions or billions pledge by any other candidate. 

So it was Count Binface for me. But after voting I felt ashamed of my insouciant recklessness. Until I read something by Janice Turner of the Times (Northern lass who probably would have romped home in Hartlepool under any banner), noting that 'Normally sensible friends put Count Binface first'. Thus all is well - I can come out.

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Prince Harry - a slow descent into irrelevancy. That's it.

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I seem capable of seeing things the wrong way round. 'The darkest hour is just before the dawn', is attributed to the 17th century theologian Thomas Fuller. It is supposed to suggest hope even in the worst of times. But on the weekend of 15th/16th May, with more re-opening of the economy due on Monday 17th, we are treated to gloomy, depressing weather, with no change imminent. This of course follows the splendidly bright weather of April, where it was so cold that eating outside to help restaurants amounted to pure masochism.

And I did maintain the masochism up to 17th May, although Cafe Med in St John's Wood was fine, largely as the group was surrounded by 2m high space heaters, and it was also good after the 1st May event - see above - the runners with their supporters gathering in the Tufnell Park Tavern garden and mostly avoiding the rain (extracting myself from a bench did nevertheless reveal a general seizing up of limbs). Less luck at La Brasseria in Marylebone High Street, where the rain defied the awning and arced in at 45 degrees. However, the whole farago was neatly summed up at The Wells Tavern of an evening in Hampstead. Jolly good localised heaters there, coming from above - grill setting. Only when we stood up and moved a metre away did we fully appreciate that...it was bloody cold. Enough!

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A revelation. Where Parkway, Camden High Street and Camden Road meet outside Camden Town tube, is apparently known officially as Britannia Junction. Here, you can respond to the cry that your country needs you, by reducing pollution through ingesting 39.7 microgrammes Nitrogen Dioxide per cubic metre of air, putting Britannia Junction 5th in the list of the top five polluted places in the London Borough of Camden. 

You will want to know what is No.1. This is the junction of Euston Road and Judd Street, opposite the British Library. Euston/Marylebone Road itself must be one rolling stream of high-grade pollution.

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Am on the edge of taking a momentous decision to drop references to Monty Python in my teaching. In fact there is just one reference, namely to the Spanish Inquisition sketch. Here the inquisitors blow the impact of their arrival by naming first one then two then three then four things as being...their weapons of surprise. I use this to explain the importance of opening a meeting in a confident well thought out way. 

The problem is that no one now recognises the sketch, notwithstanding that it still sits proudly on YouTube. I could do the thing of 'You really do need to watch it', but that would be a turn-off. Ageing remorselessly intensifies the disconnect between generations.

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I saw the car. It was driving through the lower reaches of Hampstead. There were flags draped from the sunroof. I did not recognise the colours but thought that they must be from a football team. There was no audio, so nothing further triggered. Later I saw the video of the car on the Finchley Road, and then later heard of arrests. I recalled something that an Irish member of my family had said about living in London during the IRA bombing campaign and wondering whether the hate reaction might cause attacks on the Irish community.

And a postscript. There is so much I would like to write on all this, but it would bore you. Just one thing then - despite my distaste for the vehemence of Israel's landgrabbing of Palestinian homes (ok, I have declared a hand), do we see non-Chinese people menacing Chinese people within 'Chinatowns', on account of China's treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority? 'But that's different', you say. Exactly. It is, but we need to dig down through the issues and not rest on a lazy, one is as bad as the other, mentality. 

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Word of the month: 'fromble'. Mentioned in an article on what life might be like after hugging is once more permitted. Decency means I cannot say more. But what is Google there for?

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'England swings like a pendulum do,

Bobbies on bicycles two by two,

Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben,

The rosy red cheeks of the little children'.

(1965 song by Roger Miller, unbelievably reaching No.13 in the UK singles chart).

 

It was the second line that I extracted from the dustbin of my mind, inspired by news that the great British criminal, ever adapting to societal development, has capitalised on LTNs (Low Traffic Neighbourhoods) by effecting nifty escapes on bikes or mopeds between the bollards/planters installed to prevent those nasty cars from sullying the genteel air of respectable London suburbs, leaving police...in those nasty cars, helpless to pursue.

Cue for a new mode of PC Plod transport: and here it is, on the cusp of being lawful, not that you would register the present illegality if you walked down an urban street. Yes, it will be bobbies on electric scooters. Hold on to your helmets!

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If the great British criminal is off for an awayday to rob in another town or City, he or she might soon find themselves travelling on Great British Railways. It's all great, isn't it, in a boosterishly great way? Could this not be the moment for Michael Portillo to return, swatting the recalcitrant Unions aside with his Bradshaws? And in the driver's cabin (for a photoshoot only - God forbid that we should give him the job of day-to-day driving of the train) we will have our Great British Prime Minister.

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And the Unions are indeed being suitably recalcitrant. Still holding close the chimeric vision of nationalisation (except they can't use that word as it is Tories in power for another ten years stuff so they have to say 'integration') we have on the airwaves Mick Lynch from the RMT telling us that the Government plan does not go far enough. BTW why is 'Mick' the majority name for Trade Union leaders?

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One should feel sympathy for Giles Coren, driven by the need to produce a funny column to splice open his hand on an upturned kitchen knife in the dishwasher and so end up in A&E. However, it made for a good piece on domestic conventions eg cutlery handles up or down. 

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Benjamin Bridgeman, 18, has been convicted of kicking a 74 year old man into the River Mersey. Speaking outside court, he reputedly said to a reporter: 'It wasn't supposed to happen. I didn't know that he was 74 years old'. Perhaps this begs the question of what younger age of victim Mr Bridgeman would have considered appropriate for a kicking into a river.

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In a piece discussing half-term activities for children, the Evening Standard mentions 'The Woggie Camp' in Hertfordshire. Honestly, it does.

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Your solicitor advises

Client: 'I want to travel to an amber zone country'

Solicitor: 'Why?'

Client: 'For holiday'.

Solicitor: 'The Government says you can't'

Client: 'Is it against the law, and if so then why is there a testing and quarantining procedure for return rather than an outright ban on travel?'

Solicitor: 'I charge more for dealing with multiple questions. Sorry, only a joke. It's like this. The number of countries on the green list is tiny, and places like Australia and New Zealand won't let you in anyway. Making everything else red would hack off the travel industry even more. It would of course be possible to legislate for travel to amber countries only for essential purposes and then try to define what is essential, but Government did something like that before on travel...

Client: '...and then we had the Cummings flight to Durham fiasco'.

Solicitor: 'Exactly. The problem is that Governments live through legislating, but legislation is no good unless it is enforceable. If you want an example, look at the problems the police had in trying to manage the protests after Sarah Everard's death. Guidance thus becomes an intermediate fudge.

Client: 'So in some ways you lot make money by advising on legislation that's difficult to interpret?'

Solicitor: 'Exactly again'. 

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James Newman for Pointless Celebrities...?

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One of the features of being up early on a Saturday morning is that you get the farming programme before Radio 4 Today starts. So I can reveal that if a bull's testicles are even 5mm short of required size then the animal will not be considered adequate (and so will not be marketable). There is no indication of what happens to the bull afterwards, but, chaps, beware if the nearest and dearest gets the tape measure out when it's bedtime...

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