Saturday, July 04, 2015


Oh, dear.   I don`t know about you but I`m getting more frustrated living in a country caught in the dying embers of a once great empire.   I accept, of course, that history is simply repeating itself and that it is the fate of `empires` to wither on the vine but I can`t see that it`s necessary for us to be losing our dignity and self respect in the process.

A couple of examples.  One is our Prime Minister`s `negotiations` in his quest to secure reform of Britain`s relationship with the European Union.  I thought it was very telling that he felt it necessary to go on a whistle stop tour of EU nations, chatting up those countries` leaders as he went and especially galling to see him going off cap in hand to Brussels, Paris and, most embarrassing of all, Berlin on what already seems a doomed mission.  Why can`t we just do our own thing and get on with it?

Last week the Commons began considering whether the time has come to start joining in the air strikes in Syria, partly I suspect as a reaction to the appalling events in Tunisia but also perhaps to overturn the `embarrassment` that Cameron suffered a year or two ago when the Commons narrowly defeated a move to authorise UK air strikes back then.  It was instructive to discover that, following that Commons defeat, Cameron had to go cap in hand to explain it all to President Obama.  It might be Independence Day in the Good Ol` US of A but we over here truly seem to have lost our own independence.

One day last week I had occasion to visit a nearby town, more out of necessity than choice, and that too was depressing, not only because I failed to get what I went for but also because the `town centre experience` was yet another example of how very different this country has become.   I suspect it could have been any High Street in any town in England so I am not singling out the one I visited for any special criticism.   But there was indeed much to criticise, not perhaps so much the town itself but the `demeanour` of what seemed a majority of people on that hot summer day.

Obesity was much in evidence;  so too tattoos; unemployment or more likely unemployability;  and conversations seemed to be conducted largely in foreign languages whilst those carried out in what passed for English seemed to consist largely of indecipherable grunts or shouts, with a hefty dose of obscenity thrown in for good measure.  Perhaps it was best summed up by the spectacle of a man sitting on the pavement with an empty violin case and what looked like a ferret on a string.    It all made me wonder whether, if these street scenes are being replicated across the land, a clear contradiction emerges - and it`s this. 

As our leaders go cap in hand around the world in missions of increasing impossibility it seems that the issues that concern them - and perhaps little middle Englanders like me - are a world away from those that enter the heads of Mr.and Mrs. Obese-Tattoos, whose principle concerns seemed to be to find their way to the benefits office and get home to watch the next instalment of pulp fiction television whilst munching their way unthinkingly towards the local A and E Department.  So I beat a hasty retreat with my heartfelt wish for a national rediscovery of dignity and self-respect very definitely confirmed..... as yet another pig flew over my roof .

Thursday, July 02, 2015


So, Operation Stack is now in its fourth day with little prospect of the chaotic consequences being eased any time soon.   Now here in my very own Kentish enclave we are not (yet) directly affected by the closure of the Ferry Ports and the Channel Tunnel, all thanks to yet another daft strike by some French malcontents.   At the last count, there were 40 miles of lorries - about 6,000 vehicles - stacked along the M20 Motorway all the way from Maidstone down to Folkestone and beyond.   

That`s bad enough, but the less fortunate Kentish enclaves a little further down the road - Leeds, Hollingbourne, Lenham, Charing, etc. - are suffering the logjams to their villages as a result of non-commercial traffic being diverted from the M20 onto the now inadequate A20.   Villagers are stuck, complaining that it`s impossible to get in or out. 

And all of this in the grip of a heatwave, the likes of which have not been experienced  in July since records began.  There are just so many people to feel sorry for but it seems that those worst affected are the lorry drivers stuck on the motorway with nowhere to go and little in the way of `facilities.  And so it was literally refreshing to see that Kent County Council, through its Emergency Planning regime, have so far distributed something like 7,000 two-litre bottles of water and 700 snack meals to lorry drivers in partnership with the Red Cross, community volunteers, the Fire and Rescue Service and other agencies.

So well done to all those involved in what has become a genuine humanitarian issue.   Now I read somewhere in the numerous reports about this fiasco that the supplies, whilst `organised` by Kent County Council, were actually donated by Tesco - this seems to be confirmed by the photo above.   But so far there has been no mention of this in any of the KCC Press Releases or media interviews.  If it`s true, then we all owe a debt of gratitude to Tesco, which needs to be acknowledged, especially by KCC who are particularly adept at trumpet blowing.  

If on the other hand the cost of supplying these drinks and meals falls on the Council Tax Payers of Kent, then I have no problem with that.   But I hope the KCC are sending the bill to the French authorities, whose collective indolence has given rise to the unprecedented chaos which not only  the lorry drivers but also the good folk of Kent are having to put up with.   

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


And so the Greek tragedy goes on.   And yesterday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that he felt `betrayed` by the `egoism` and `games` played by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his colleagues over the negotiations with Greece`s creditors.   

Now, like it or not, Tsipras and his chums were democratically elected by the Greek voters on an anti-austerity ticket and they have been pursuing the policies on which they were elected.   It`s arguable that the Greek electors` choice of a party with populist ideals but little in the way of financial experience or aptitude might not have been the brightest choice ever made, but nonetheless it was a result that reflected the will of the majority of Greek voters and so, especially in the cradle of democracy itself, that choice should be respected.

So it`s a bit rich for the unelected EU Brussels bureaucrat not only to start telling the Greeks what they should be doing but also being disrespectful to their democratically elected leaders.   I know it will cause a good deal of turmoil and mayhem but in a way I hope the Greek referendum on Sunday gives backing to the country`s elected leaders and in so doing send a clear message to the likes of Juncker and the EU `elite` that whilst Greece may face a mess far greater than any of its creditors, at least it will be a mess of their own choosing.   

Monday, June 29, 2015


It was indeed a very bad news weekend - Tunisia; Kuwait; France - and so in a desperate attempt to get away from the wall-to-wall coverage of those appalling events and ones which are simply annoying, like Glastonbury, I discovered that ITV3 were showing re-runs of their 2012 series about National Parks.   Last night`s final programme in the series was supposed to be all about the New Forest which I could claim as my spiritual home, having spent my boyhood at Hythe on Southampton Water, "where the forest meets the sea."

Now the New Forest has much to commend it - the woodlands, the heathlands, the lawns, the forest villages, the wildlife, the history, the culture, the coastline - and I thought that at least some of these might be captured in an hour long `documentary` about the area.   Not a bit of it.   Instead we what was dished up was a collage of Caroline Quentin gushing loudly and largely incoherently in a series of staged encounters, including joining a lady up a tree. joining another one rounding up and then selling a pony, joining some chef on a forage for stuff to eat, having a good time at the Romsey Show, which isn`t in the New Forest National Park and watching a man hang gliding with his dog over Barton on Sea, which isn`t in the New Forest either.

And all done with the kind of `look at me,` stentorian, self promoting `style` which she employed to ruin a similar series about Cornwall some while ago.   Now to some people, doubtless Caroline Quentin is something of a national treasure.  The truth, however, is that she has now become a national embarrassment to herself as well as to the National Parks.   So my escape bid failed miserably and so I rescued my evening by watching Nicholas Roeg`s masterpiece, `Walkabout,` on BBC 4 and hearing once more John Barry`s glorious music and the mellifluous tones of the young Jenny Agutter.   None of which has come close, however, to easing the images and suffering brought on by a weekend which will be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Tense and difficult negotiations seem to be the norm these days - nothing is simple or straightforward - but the process of negotiation is, of course, well established.   A problem occurs between a number of parties;  proposals are put forward to resolve the problem to the satisfaction of each of the parties involved.   The proposals are carefully considered but, in the end, rejected.  Counter proposals are then put on the table in an effort to meet the demands of the other parties.   These too are rejected, powers of diplomacy are fully tested and just when it seems that no agreement can be reached, one of the parties blinks first.   Result.

And so the drawn out negotiations between Southampton and Liverpool over the transfer of Saints` England right back Nathaniel Clyne have seemingly been through that process and a result looks to have been achieved.  It`s understood that Liverpool`s blink will see them pay Southampton the £12.5 million they were demanding for Clyne, who has a year to run on his current contract at St. Mary`s.  In business terms this represents a good return on Saints` original investment of £2.5 million when Clyne signed from Crystal Palace, especially as Saints have already signed a ready made replacement in Portuguese international defender Cedric Soares from Sporting Lisbon.

The details will be finalised once Clyne gets back from America but the clubs have agreed the fee and so Clyne will join former Saints Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren at Anfield, which Liverpool seem determined to make as the destination of choice for Saints players.  I think this will bring Liverpool`s signings so far this summer to something like eight new players - they clearly believe in buying teams rather than building them and seem to have a bottomless pit of cash to squander.   

In other news, difficult negotiations continue over the Greek debt mountain, which has now reached laughable proportions and the only solution seems to be for Liverpool to buy Greece.  Dave Cameron`s negotiations about reforming the European Union have taken a bit of a knock with Her Maj. chirping up at a banquet last night that it would be a shame if the UK were to leave the bloated, power crazed, remote, bureaucratic, corrupt, self-serving EU project. I paraphrase, of course, but it`s hard to understand why she would infer such a thing as you might expect the Sovereign of all people to be especially bothered by the prospect of losing yet more, if not all, of her country`s sovereignty.

I`m not surprised that negotiations seem to get more and more difficult these days.  

Monday, June 22, 2015


Well, it didn`t take long for the true colours of the Westminster Bubble to emerge from the ashes of Labour`s election defeat.   Now there apparently exists a curious convention known as the `dissolution honours,` which allows a defeated leader to reward loyal cronies.   I imagine that these shenanigans are normally conducted rather quietly, away from the public gaze and thus avoiding the kind of criticism  that might be attracted.

This time, however, there`s a snag, which has given rise to a big falling out between former Leader Ed Milliband and Acting Leader Harriet Harman, who protested when discovering that Milliband intended to dish out a peerage to his election co-ordinator, one Spencer Livermore.   She retaliated by demanding a similar `honour` for her press chief, someone named Ayesha Hazarika.   The situation is complicated by the fact that, as things stand, Harriet - as Acting Leader of the party - outranks the crestfallen Milliband and so she is determined to stand up to him.

Labour MPs aren`t happy with this public spat and are said to be `outraged` by the prospect of peerages being give to ` a wonk and a spin doctor,` whilst overlooking two senior Labour parliamentarians, Paul Murphy and Dave Watts, who `have devoted their lives to serving their party and country with distinction and deserve the awards far more` than the two being squabbled over.

And when you look at the comparative qualifications of the four prospective peers in question, I can only agree with the back-bench MPs who are `outraged.`   It seems Mr. Livermore, who naturally lives with his partner, the Labour MEP Sebastian Dance,  is reported to have been promised a peerage when he was recruited by Ed Milliband two years ago and therefore his claim to a seat in the House of Lords seems to hinge on a misguided promise and losing the election which he was paid to co-ordinate.   Ms. Hazarika is a former actress, stand-up comedian and hit the headlines when being sworn at by Hugh Grant in a bar at the 2012 Labour Conference.  Previous to her work for Ms. Harman, she spent time in the Home Office, Downing Street and as chief press officer to Labour Cabinet Minister Patricia Hewitt. It is believed that this almighty fuss has forced Ms. Harmon to abandon her bid to ennoble her press chief. 

The whole thing smack of farce, of course, because it`s one thing to have a discredited honours system anyway, another to have  murky `dissolution honours` and quite another to even suggest that people who live off patronage and favouritism should be suitable candidates to join the ermine-clad ranks of the £300 a day Santa lookalikes that make up the second chamber of the mother of parliaments.   Or maybe they might just fit the bill after all?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dreckley / Dreckly - at some point in the future; soon, but not immediately; like "maƱana", but less urgent (derives from English "directly" but differs in meaning) 

One of the many charms of Cornwall is its quirkiness.   Of course, the county is rightly and staunchly proud of its cultural, if not political, independence from those `up country.`  A couple of examples from our most recent visit....

The first is that, however much the Cornish economy relies on tourism, now and again you come across little things that make you wonder just how welcome you really are.  During a recent visit, we parked in the almost secret car park above Pendower beach and so I had a look at where the rest of the few cars that were parked there came from.  Lo and behold, they were all `local` but one had a sticker on the rear bumper showing the Cornish cross with `NON EMMETT` emblazoned across the middle.   Now the Cornish word for visitors and those who have made the Duchy their retirement or second home is....Emmetts.  And this car sticker was a clear signal that  the owner was Cornish through and through.  I felt I should buy one that just said `EMMETT.`

More intriguingly, on the drive back to Rosevine from St. Anthony`s Head, I noticed a signpost in the village of Gerrans that puzzled me.   Nowadays it`s impossible to see the join between Gerrans and Portscatho but the signpost pointed the way to Portscatho just down the hill.  What took my eye was that Portscatho was spelt `PORTSCATHA.`  

Further research has shown that the same signpost points the way to St. Austell, Tregony , Percuil and St. Anthony.  All very helpful.  Only St. Austell was spelt `ST. AUSTEL,` Tregony was spelt `TREGONEY,` Percuil was spelt `PORTHCUIL` and St. Anthony was spelt `ST. ANTONY.`   All of which makes that particular signpost possibly the most intriguing in all of Cornwall.  I`m reluctant to draw its idiosyncrasies to the attention of the authorities because I`m sure, given the passage of time, it will all be put right dreckly.

Proper job !!