Friday, 12 August 2016

Caravan diaries, Here and Now (Part Two)

I’d anticipated sharing, in enthusiastically avuncular tones, my childhood experience of this beach: climbing rocks (there’s a particular one, the Big Rock, they’d surely have to climb that just as I did when I was their age), dipping a hand into a rock pool (I know where the best ones are), collecting shells (you can’t have too many cockles and mussels and razors), watching the slow motion of the tides and working out when the beach would be at its best, feeling the sand and building castles from it, with that special glee of knowing that those tides are going to level them back to flat clean sand in a few hours, so it’s fine to wantonly kick over your own lovingly crafted creation just before you leave the beach for an ice cream (that’s fun!).

I was wrong.  Gus and Zerlina found all that all by themselves, immediately and instinctively.  It’s Tuesday now (I think) and we have to leave on Friday; so I only have two days to discover diverting and damming streams, shrimping (though we have no nets as yet), espying huge live crabs in the recesses of the deepest pools…  Sorry, did I say ‘discover’ there?  Hmm.


Caravan diaries, Here and Now (Part One)

If you want to know mindfulness, come to Wiseman’s Bridge.  If you want to explore it deeply, bring two small children. 

I first came here when I was probably somewhere around Gus and Zerlina’s ages, so let’s call it six.  Although I was born and brought up within earshot of the sea, and spent many of my early days on Southbourne beach, that wasn’t the seaside as we understood it:  that had to be Pembrokeshire, obviously. As my parents had patiently to explain to acquaintances –  who expressed perplexity as to why anyone would drive three hundred miles to get from one beach to another, taking about seven hours in the process (the Severn bridges, let alone the M4, not then even having been a post-war planner’s wet daydream, the journey therefore having to be made via the lowest bridging point at Gloucester, followed by scenic detours across the Heads of the Valleys and even further north, as far as Builth Wells sometimes, to indulge my father’s unexpressed passion for dramatic scenery) – those two versions of ‘seaside’ were so different as to make the whole thing not just worthwhile, but essential.

This time the journey was in three legs, over three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  (Modern kids shouldn’t be asked to do seven unbroken hours in a car, even with more distractive technology than we could have imagined or handled, nor required to sing ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’ and ‘Ten Green Bottles’ for seven hours.)  Leg one was from their child-minder’s to Z’s house: a mere forty minutes, just to soften them up.  Packing my car with what had been interpreted from the phrase ‘travel light’ proved a challenge, though nothing compared to then wedging it all, plus our own modest equipage, plus the food (and the extra food, and the oh-by-the-way food; and we still managed to forget the garlic) into Z’s car for the second leg, from Yagnub to my place in Reading.  Then it was just the boring last three hours down the M4, across the gorgeous bridge and into Wales, lunch at the best pub in the country (the White Hart at Llandarog) and so to – here!

Now is Monday.  I’ve only managed to get us as far as the caravan, and I’m already exhausted.  Parts two and three will be written tomorrow and, perhaps, Thursday, and published simultaneously when I get back to the internet-verse on Friday.

Friday, 8 July 2016

The Real Result

In an election, you have a choice between several candidates, whose proposals you can consider and choose between, and place your X accordingly.  If you decide not to do so, by abstaining, you may feel that you are nevertheless making a statement, which might be ‘none of these’ or ‘I don’t care’.  Abstention is thus a positive choice.

In a yes/no referendum, you don’t have the luxury of that ‘none of these’ or ‘don’t care’ third option.  It’s binary.  Your action has to mean ‘yes’ or ‘no’, nothing else.

In the case of our recent referendum, not voting had to mean ‘remain’.  What else could it possibly mean?  After all, it certainly wasn’t a vote for ‘leave’, and as I’ve shown there was no third choice. 

Therefore, the votes of the 28% of the electorate who abstained have to be counted as votes for ‘remain’.  So by not turning up, those 28% were saying they were happy for things to ‘remain’ as they are.

This being so, the real result was

Remain: 63% of the electorate.

Leave: 37% of the electorate.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

And then…?

If the result is to stay in, nothing needs to happen.

If it’s out, a lot will have to happen.  Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

The U.K. will have to abrogate several Treaties –Rome, Maastricht, Lisbon, to name but three.  This will require at least one, if not several Acts of Parliament, which will have to go through the due constitutional process before receiving the Royal Assent.  I’d guess that the Lords will send it back to the Commons as often as they can.

In parallel, we will have to embark on the technical process of withdrawal.  I have no idea what this entails in practice, and I suspect that nobody else does either.  There may be some procedures written down somewhere, but they’ve obviously never been used in anger.  So it’ll take some work to turn theory into practice.  We’ll probably need a new department of the Civil Service to unravel it – and the Foreign Office will certainly need to be drawn in too; after all, we will also be renegotiating every single EU treaty with every other country we’ve signed up to, one at a time. 

Also in parallel, we will have to assess every single law, regulation and protocol that has emanated from the EU (or its precursors) and decide which of them to retain and which to repeal.   Given that these are enshrined in U.K. law, many Acts of Parliament will, again, be required, and will have to go through due constitutional process.

Then – and this can only happen once all the above has been performed, vetted and reviewed (not to mention publicly debated) – then, a single issue General Election will have to take place.  It’s impossible for this to happen in less than two years, and my guess is that it’ll take nearer eight.  By which time all the current generation of politicians will have faded away.

I have more!

It’s Too Late

I don’t mean that I’ve already voted so it’s too late to try and persuade me either way, though that’s true.

I mean it’s too late: the damage is already done.

Whatever the outcome on 24th June, this pointless, gratuitous referendum has already achieved what will be its one enduring effect – to unleash primeval instincts of stupid, unreasoning prejudice, xenophobia and deluded imperialism that have always been latent in this country, and give them a cause, a voice and a platform.  In doing so, it has diminished us – all of us – in a way that will take us decades to recover from, if we ever do.

All those who out of pure, misguided self-interest called for and imposed the referendum, so surrendering in advance to those forces, have earned their historic legacy.  Let them sink in its mire and be ashamed.


Friday, 3 June 2016

Caravan diaries (June)

Having initiated Z into the worst weather Pembrokeshire can throw at you, I felt obliged to share the best, so (having arranged for a week of perfect sunshine, gentle breezes and no rain), off we set on Monday.  All the traffic was going in the other direction (bank holidays, for people who have to go to work, are travelling days, not holidays at all, aren’t they?) so we made good time.

The site was fairly well populated, although largely with people I don’t know that well; having been there for nearly fifteen years, I’ve observed generations succeeding each other, so the inhabitants now tend to be the children or grandchildren of the old hands I’d first met.  They still wave and smile, of course, but they tend not to stagger down the hill at nine thirty clutching bottles and glasses.  (Nine thirty p.m., that is: they did their pre-yardarm drinking behind closed doors.)

There were dozens of small children (great-grands in some cases), who monopolised every square yard of grassy space with cartwheels, downhill bicycle races, chaotic games of cricket or rounders (you’re not supposed to actually carry the player to the next base, are you?) and all the other incomprehensible games kids seem to invent once they’re let loose into an unconfined, fairly rule-free space.   

No rabbits, though.  Last visit, they were out in force – this time, not a single sighting.  This may be because of the extremely thorough grass-cutting that seems to have become standard this season; or because they’ve all borrowed under the foundations of our caravan and are busy down there, doing whatever rabbits do for fun.  Anyway, there’s a rather alarming hole directly under the front of the van, which caused me a moment’s panic until I realised that it wasn’t on the scale of those car-swallowing sinkholes you hear about.  I alerted Joseph anyway, and he promised to ‘deal with it’ – I didn’t enquire too closely into precisely what this entailed, as I suspect it’s not very pleasant, at least not for the rabbits.

We’d resolved to come back on Thursday, but fine weather trumps resolve any day of the week, innit?  So we came back on Friday.  The sunshine is chasing us eastwards, and will reach Reading for the weekend, and Yagnub by whenever we do.


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Timbo gets a quality haircut

I’ve been going to Duke Street Barbers in Reading for about eight years now.  Prior to that, a ladies’ hairdresser called Diane had come to the house every six weeks, done Viv’s hair and thrown in a trim for me, but once that couldn’t be sustained I took a friend’s recommendation and ended up at Duke Street.

It’s definitely a gent’s barber’s shop:  it says, or at least implies, as much on the signboard outside the door, which even sports the once traditional red-and-white barber’s pole (which is, as I’m sure you know, a relic from the days when barbers were also surgeons, and so bandaged wounded limbs, evidently not very efficiently).  It has eight chairs and, as far as I can tell, up to four barbers.  There are a couple of long-termers, but apart from them the staff turnover is high.  I’ve had my hair cut by lots of charming barbers, male and female – the unisex rule applies only to the clientele, not the operatives – but rarely the same one more than twice.

So I wasn’t surprised to find a new guy bouncing out of the back room when I called in the other day for my usual light scissor trim.  (I learned a few years ago that this was what to order, having disastrously experimented with the various grades of razor cut – they run from one (bald) to eight (nearly bald).)  He greeted me effusively, which usually puts me off, as making small talk whilst being gently tortured doesn’t come naturally to me.  But this guy disarmed me straight away by telling me how much hair I had, and by implication how much he was looking forward to sculpting it.  I alluded to the cranial bald patch, and he pointed out that I’m fairly tall, so people won’t usually notice it.  I thought it best not to argue the point.

He was a damn good haircutter (I’ve been complimented on the job he did) but also a very engaging conversationalist.  He’d spent some time in Spain before coming to England, loved it, learnt the language, had I ever been to Spain?  Given another twenty minutes, I like to think he’d have invited me to accompany him on a holiday to Marbella, but that wasn’t to be.  Turned out he was originally from Morocco.  We need more immigrants like him.

The best bit was when the chat turned back to my luxuriant rug.  I don’t understand why blokes who have a good healthy crop choose to reap it all off with a number one.  “They think it makes them look hard,” my friend said.  “They’re right, it does,” I replied.  “Yes,” he said.  “But it doesn’t make them hard.”



Tuesday, 10 May 2016

This Brexit thingie

This blog doesn’t do politics, except when it does.  This is one of those occasions. 

I may as well use the tried and tested WWWWW formula.

What?  Answer: Nobody Knows Anything.  (© the great William Goldman.)  Predictions of the economic impact of Brexit are so wildly variant as to render them about as useful as that bus you are, or are not, about to walk under.  (Oh, and it seems our French friends have scuppered TTIP, so that card’s no longer on the table.)

Why?  The Daily Mail, of all media, has posed this very interesting question.  If Cameron is so worried about the outcome, why did he call the referendum in the first place?  Don’t hold out for an answer.

Where?  The Brexit camp is rather vociferous about our potential trading links with, let’s see: China; South America; India …  Rather less so about Russia, Saudi Arabia, North Korea.  And presumably they’re a bit equivocal about the USA at the moment.

Who?  Z has waxed eloquent elsewhere, so I’ll just list her three Premier League names: George Galloway; Marine le Pen; Donald Trump.  And add a few second-rankers: Boris, IDS, Govey… I could go on.  They’ve even tried to rope in the Queen.  But give me a list of Remainers (apart from those under orders, obviously)?  David Attenborough isn’t enough.  Mobilisation is called for.  Where are Ant and Dec when we need them?    

When?  That’s a tricky one.  Will the Turkish and Armenian  hordes overwhelm us?  Or will the Empire rise again in Hope and Glory?  Before the next general election?  O will we just muddle on, as usual?  We are British, after all.

Sunday, 1 May 2016


This is the last in a miniseries. 

Tortoises are demanding animate boulders.  That’s all I really have to say on the subject, but this is a blog post not a facebook quip, so I’ll have to expound.

Let’s take boulders first.  Basically, they don’t move (but see animate below).  You can watch one for hours before it proves it’s alive by sticking its head out to see if there’s anything green within reach.  If there is, it’ll eat it; if not, it’ll stick its head back in and revert to boulderdome.  If you catch one in the act, feel honoured.  It’s almost interesting.

As I hinted though, they can be animate, in the sense of actually moving.  When this mood takes them, they can be surprisingly sprightly.  We caught the older one halfway across the lawn a few weeks ago, it having somehow scaled a brick barricade five times its height and sprinted the equivalent of two or three of our miles, before pausing for whatever is the tortoise version of breath and looking around for something acceptably green to eat, the basic lawn grass of course not fitting its strict dietary regime.

Which brings me to demanding.  I mustn’t say too much under this heading, because after all, once you’ve taken responsibility you have to discharge it, don’t you?  But really.  Who needs three custom-built palaces?  Especially ones you spend most of your energy trying to break out of?