Lemonade, wind-breaks and a Passion Play – the triumph of officiousness over common sense

Tired of Brexit, I come back to that staple subject, the dim and officious council employee and other “small-minded officials with powers disproportionate to their intelligence” as I put it in an article of 2010. The lemonade girl of Tower Hamlets calls to mind the stories of the Bristol wind-break and the Oxford Passion Play.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post which was almost entirely about Brexit. It was called Malice, stupidity or something else? What is behind political posturing? Hundreds of people read it and the reactions were kind. A few days later I wrote another one called David Davis and the suicidal robot – a Brexit parable. I rather enjoyed writing it, but almost no one read it. Either nobody really liked the first one or they thought they’d seen it already; perhaps they were just bored with Brexit.

The problem with these compendium articles is that they take a long time to write, especially when that is fitted around working. The first parts are out of date before the last paragraph is written and other things get missed. Where do you stop – rolling subjects like Brexit offer us something new to wonder at every day and, frankly, there is more to life than Brexit (I wonder if that is true: Captain Scott would not say “There is more to life than flogging through the snow” as if he had any option by that stage; ever-increasing desperation and the growing certainty that he was done for probably felt a bit like Brexit).

Anyway, I am going back to writing shorter articles about bite-sized topics – whatever catches my eye as the days pass. Continue reading

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David Davis and the suicidal robot – a Brexit parable

Brexit continues to hang over everything, soaking up money, promise and resources which could be spent on advancing the country. The Brexit case unravelled further by the day, but David Davis seemed unperturbed as he resiled step-by-step from the promises, express or implied, made before the referendum.

There is the stench of national death in the air, its symptoms ranging from lost jobs and lost opportunities down to pollution of public discourse such as we have never seen.

The picture of Death comes from Terry Gilliam’s Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Death makes several attempts to kill Munchausen as the film progresses, apparently succeeding at the end. It was but a play, it appears, “only one of the many occasions on which I met my death” the Baron says.

Gilliam’s Munchausen has a fantastical plot in which apparently certain doom is constantly averted by good fortune and the powers of the Baron’s skilful sidekicks.  Brexit has the apparently certain doom, but Baroness Mayhausen has only the illusions and none of the skilful sidekicks – only David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox. Continue reading

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Malice, stupidity or something else? The mixed motives behind political posturing

An irregular series of articles whose main purpose is to capture some of the follies of our times before they are obliterated by next week’s wave of leaderless drifting.

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.”

Hanlon’s Razor is useful up to a point in these difficult times. Malice is clearly uppermost in the minds of the far left activists who have been attacking “Blairite” MPs. There is nothing stupid about those thoroughly nasty far-right people who have their knees against Theresa May’s spine to make sure she doesn’t succumb to common sense over Brexit. Of those MPs who are making most of the unhelpful noise over the Grenfell fire, Emma Dent Coad is clearly stupid, but David Lammy is not. We need a more complex and multi-sided version of Hanlon’s Razor to take account of negative drivers beyond malice and stupidity. If I had Dent Coad’s back history, the last thing I would want is Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s well-practised investigative skills prowling through the Kensington archives, so self-preservation is perhaps her motivator.

I don’t know what is worse really – our apparent acceptance that political dishonesty (“Oh, you know what Boris is like”) is the default, the sheer nastiness of much political discourse, or the fast-growing suggestion that political disaffection will spill over into civil disturbance. The modern version of the Battle of Cable Street would see Daniel Hannan, some EDL thugs, disaffected agriculturalists, and some retired people moaning about wanting their country back, all lined up against the semi-professional louts of the Socialist Worker Party, Corbyn’s squeaky toy Owen Jones, and gangs of students wanting the free stuff which Corbyn promised them but bewildered by the belated realisation that their hero can’t deliver and wants to deprive them of freedom of movement.

Over it all hangs Brexit, offering divisions which cut across all the other issues, sucking the life out of the economy, and stifling the expectations of  us all except the far right extremists, whose hatred of the EU is visceral rather than logical,  and the far left who think that their socialist utopia can only come if founded on the wreck of capitalism. What strange bedfellows they make. Continue reading

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London panoramas from multiple photographs

One of Photoshop’s features gives you the ability to stitch multiple pictures together to make a single picture (yes I know several other apps do this, but the point about Photoshop is that your raw material can be just that – RAW. The ones used in the pictures below are 6000×4000 pixels each, at the maximum quality my Nikon allows).

My (not over-expensive) 50mm lens is good enough to capture detail in each of the components, and each of them is correctly exposed and focussed for its particular content, as opposed to the compromises which must be made if a single shot must embrace far and near, light and dark. Continue reading

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Grenfell Tower – horror and grief become the source of political point scoring

A horrific fire rages in a tower block killing an as-yet uncounted number of people. Firefighters do what they always do, running towards danger in the same way as the police run towards unmeasurable threats that the rest of us flee from. Volunteers turn out from every direction offering accommodation, food, clothing, toys and anything else which might be of use to families suddenly dispossessed of everything they own. Lawyers volunteer their time to help sort out the multiple entanglements which must ensue.

Others are caught on the hop. The local authority is slow to react and poor at communicating. Prime Minister Theresa May appears distant and uncaring. Into the void come half-formed theories, accusations of blame, and that army of voluble but ignorant people on social media who instantly become experts on whatever is the scandal of the day, in this case building materials. Continue reading

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Theresa May pays £1bn to go to bed with the DUP

Theresa May, weakened by a doubly-botched election (botched once in that she did not need to call it and botched twice because the campaign was a text-book disaster) felt compelled to call on the Democratic Unionist Party for support.

The DUP cleverly negotiated a bung of £1bn for their support (it should be stressed that this goes to the Northern Ireland Assembly, not to the DUP itself). It seems unlikely that the DUP would have voted against the Queen’s Speech anyway, or allied themselves in any way with a Labour party headed by Sinn Féin cheerleaders Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Like most things Theresa May does, this unthinking rush into the DUP’s embrace had consequences obvious to the rest of us. It opened her to up to cries about fairness – fairness as between regions for one, but also as between the ease with which May rustled up money to save her party and the austerity imposed on some much more deserving people.

The DUP (“the Bible with fortnightly bin collections” as someone put it), would not be most people’s choice of bed-fellow. Leaving their primitive social mores out it, however, the marriage gave rise to some decent jokes (and God knows, we need some decent ones at a time when the UK itself has become a joke).

Here are a few (credits as on the tweets):

Continue reading

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Aux armes les citoyhens

One can see where the French revolutionaries got the idea for those little red caps they wore. This fine-looking lady produces eggs for the cafe at Worton Organic Garden at Yarnton this afternoon.

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