Late Life Crisis - November 2020

"Now Christopher and Patrick, show me the drawings you've done during carpet time.......thank you".

"Christopher, yours has some squiggly lines going up and down over the page...........................I see, it's spiders having a race......well, that is very good imagination".

"Patrick, you've done a drawing with some lovely blocks of colour. I can see some yellow, some orange, and some red. What made you do a drawing like this?.................................Ah right, it's something you remember from when your mother left her Farrow & Ball colour chart on the kitchen table".

"But Christopher and Patrick, you both have this very tiny writing at the bottom of the drawing. No one would be able to read that, so you must form your letters much bigger..................................Oh dear, you both saw writing like that when Mummy and Daddy were watching TV, so you thought it was ok, even though both your Daddies said they couldn't read a f-----g word of it.....................Who were the people on the TV?......................................Yes, two tall men who looked like head teachers and a funny one in the middle....What did the one in the middle look like?.....................................A teddy bear? Really!".

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I realise that the above could be seen as misogynistic. There is no reason why the father could not have left his Farrow & Ball chart on the kitchen table and why it could not have been the mothers who were saying that they could not read a f-----g word of the text on the TV. Astute readers will appreciate that the point of the item was directed elsewhere. 

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In the last Late Life Crisis I ended with reference to Boris Johnson's Flying Circus and Hancock's Half Arsed. Having seen reported the performance of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in front of his Surrey Heath constituents, suggesting that some golf might be allowed in Lockdown 2.0 (no doubt with chaps at that moment brandishing Three irons in the weedy one's face), and that promptly being stamped on by No.10, we should definitely add Gove's Goon Show to the list of notional productions,. 

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Poetry corner: Donald Trump raging against the dying of the light; Johnson not waving but drowning.

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The thrilling touch of the fabric. The smooth swish as it eases over your thighs.

Yes, it's your new Lycra winter running leggings....

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It is usually a downer listening to the First Minister of Wales in one of his hand-wringing Covid presentations. He could easily double as another species of Minister.  Thus I propose that each of his press conferences should end with a suitable hymn containing revised words. Here is the draft of a first verse:

"Guide me oh thou devolution leader,

Pilgrim through this barren land.

I am weak, and thou depressing,

Mould me with thy mournful hand.

Mark of Drakeford, Mark of Drakeford,

Lead me till I want no more,

Lead me till I want no more".

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Not much cheer as we go into Lockdown 2.0. But nature continues to do its bit. Below is a pretty good sunrise:

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If you like conspiracy theories, here's one for you. China deliberately allowed Covid 19 to spread throughout the rest of the world. It knew that the virus would cause illness and death to members of its own population. But equally it knew that its autocratic style of government would enable coercive interventions to deprive people of their liberty so as to control the spread of the virus in its own country, while in the meantime its scientists would vigorously pursue a path to treatment and vaccination. It also knew that in contrast Western governments could not exercise the same control, resulting in procrastination, and flipping of policy priorities notably economic recovery v public health. China could thus portray the West as containing regimes of chaos, in contrast to to the beneficial model of Chinese "democracy". The problem with conspiracy theories is that they only need to be marginally plausible to be believed by many.

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School home time seems now to take all afternoon. On a dusk outing after a day of online teaching, I overhead these very de nos jours words from a mother in a local park: "Yes, darling, Mummy has come out to collect you in her jammies".

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I turn on the radio for the 7am News. We are in the middle of the National Anthem. What has happened?! Relief at hand - it is the Prince of Wales's birthday. He is 72. Congratulations Sir, but at this rate one will be at least 80 before one gets ones mitts on the Crown. 

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Postcard from The Isle of Wight (October)

Portsmouth may have many attractions, but the Wightlink terminal is not one of them. Nevertheless, from the lapping of the shoreline waves comes the anticipation - an overseas trip.

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A competitive dash up the stairs from the car deck to get a front row seat in the lounge. A chunky chap ahead pauses for breath and gestures for us to go past. I assess his BMI and feel that perhaps I should have advised him to take the lift. Settling into position - we have already laid out coats on either side in the small row of seats in order to dissuade any Covid-laden passengers from sitting near us.  There is a used car dealer nearby. He wears a blingy watch with a face the size of a fried egg. Thank God this is not a cruise.

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We arrive in a time warp. Houses rooted in 1960s suburbia. There are garden gnomes. Signs to East Cowes. Where is West Cowes? There isn't one. There is Cowes and East Cowes. Knowledge of local geography increases exponentially.

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The yachting centre of Cowes. Close your eyes and try to imagine Boaty McBoat faces on the verandahs, wearing their Ted Heath caps. The Red Funnel ferry arrives from Southampton. So unlike the old joke it is not brown and comes out of Cowes backwards. That was a cruel deception. 

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After the ferry, another transport of delight, the chain-driven floating bridge that whisks vehicles and passengers to and fro between Cowes and East Cowes (one is now so much up with the programme) across the estuary of the River Medina. Journey time about two minutes tops. Could we ask why no one ever thought to build a bridge? Careful though, the natives look docile but it woud not be good to antagonise them. (Sorry, arty photo).

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Off to Osborne, the focal point of the IOW visit. English Heritage volunteers haughtily ensure Covid compliance. We walk down a gloomy passageway adorned with paintings and drawings screaming Empress of India. For an anti-colonialist, it would be like walking over hot coals. One keeps two metres form the knot of people in front. But they comprise a coach party, moving at a funereally slow place. Patience? No, sod it! 

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The house is architecturally pleasing.

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But the highlight for me was the beach, where the Queen and her family came to bathe in the refreshing waters of the Solent. It comes complete with what is claimed as her bathing machine.

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There's a lot of vent in Ventnor, and it's not the sort of vent that rails against the EU - see below. I love it: I was brought up by the sea in Broadstairs. Others may not feel so positive about being nearly blown off their feet.

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On a clear day you can see....Lymington. Later in the trip, passing Isle of Wight Prisons (aka Parkhurst) made me think of a family visit to Alcatraz in the late 1990s. Ok, slightly stretching the imagination

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But to balance out the beauty, the IOW does family-oriented naff that could compete with the finest. At Blackgang Chine you can admire a large plastic model of John Wayne on a horse. However, order is restored with a visit to Motinstone Manor and Chucrh, scene of Benedict Cumberbatch's nuptials in 2015. Almost as wonderful was the lady from The National Trust, delighted to see visitors, enthusiastically selling the house, and giving us the Covid routine in a beautifully resigned way: "I know it's all a bit of a nuisance, dear, but nevertheless...". That's the way to do it.

 

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It would not be right to finish without a political reference. Driving around the island, one became aware of more than a smattering of Union Jack flags, and not just from display on public buildings. Surely not a Brexit stronghold? A moment's research. Leave: 61.9 per cent. Remain: 38.1 per cent. Rule Britannia. And it makes sense of all those gnomes.

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Back home, a newspaper piece reports a Liverpool story from the days when it still had a serious docks industry. A docker was stopped while wheeling away a wheelbarrow covered in a tarpaulin. The tarpaulin was lifted. Nothing underneath. This continued for three weeks until the dock owners realised that the chap was stealing wheelbarrows.

It reminded me of a first-hand story. A couple of men in white overalls entered an office where I worked, and emerged a short time later carrying a large plasma screen. The security guard at reception asked them what they were doing. They replied that they were taking the screen out of the building. The security guard waved them on...

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A scenario painted pre-election by Michael Cohen, formerly Trump's personal lawyer, for the outcome of Biden winning: 1. Trump brings a multitude of lawsuits against individual states (tick); 2. To underpin this, Trump's Attorney-General Bill Barr, adds support (tick); 3. If this does not result in Biden's lead being overturned, Trump resigns as President, with Pence taking over and pardoning Trump of any Federal crimes of which he may be found to have been guilty (TBC). PS 1: It appears that even if the pardon worked it could only be for Federal crimes and not State crimes. PS2 Here is a supplemental Cohen scenario: While the legals are going on, Trump holds rallies and calls for armed MAGA supporters to take to the streets. This would result in chaos, enabling Trump to call martial law and subsequently declare himself President for life. Ha ha indeed, but on some occasions what we thought was fantasy turned out to be reality - like his winning the Presidency. Extreme outcomes no, but out of the box moves? Yes.

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In June this year the comedian Harry Enfield did an interview in which he defended white actors using blackface His star turn had been Nelson Mandela. The interview drew criticism. and was labelled by some as a car-crash. It turns out that Enfield's interview was a mere bumper scrape compared with the appearance of the FA Chairman, Greg Clarke, before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. What is the mind of Mr Clarke? Maliciously prejudiced against women, people of colour, and the LGBT community? Or just a farty old dinosaur who has effectively been Red Carded before he could retire from his role. Who knows? What I do know is that the voice and delivery of Greg Clarke and the voice and delivery of David Davies are remarkably similar. That of course is not to imbue Davies with any similar opinions.

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Maybe both Enfield and Clarke misspoke. We could come back to what exactly is "misspeaking", but for certain it comes in different shapes and sizes. In the last couple of days there has been the amusing interview phrase from Caroline Lucas of the the Green Party that the Government's latest green initiatives "fail to rise to the gravity of the situation", and then Boris Johnson's car crash over devolution in Scotland. The two germane phrases, as reported, were his description of devolution as "a disaster north of the border" and "Tony Blair's biggest mistake". Of these, the second is more significant. Downing Street spin doctors could spin the first phrase into the PM meaning that Scottish devolution was a disaster as implemented by the SNP. However, the second phrase makes clear that Johnson was denouncing the whole concept of devolution (at least for Scotland). Material more suited for one of his Telegraph columns. At heart, and this is not a new thought, our Prime Minister is an opinion-piece journalist masquerading as a political leader.

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A poem in the style of  E J Thribb aged 17 1/2 (Private Eye)

So farewell, Dom Cummings,

You were the King 

Of Brexit,

But now it is your time

To find

The exit.

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The author is a writer, speaker, historian, occasional tour guide, and former Managing Partner of a City law firm.