Monday, 14 August 2017

BLEU



That’s a much better acronym than the worn-out Brexit acrostic, isn’t it?
I have read so much nonsense about ‘Britain Leaving the European Union’ that I thought it was time to put the world’s thoughts in order.  I will confine myself to the classic five-point system.
One.  Nobody knows anything.
Two.  Nothing has happened.
Three.  This is not democracy.
Four.  Loudness is not thought.
Five.  The devil is in the detail. 

To expand:
  1. Nobody knows anything about what is going to happen when, after a protracted process of definition, drafting and deliberation an Act of Parliament representing Britain’s departure from the EU is presented for the Royal Assent.  Not just because whoever turns out to be monarch by then might just say ‘no’, but because nobody has a clue what it will actually say.
  2. Following from that, so far nothing’s actually happened.  The debate, if that’s a word any more, is almost entirely about the story of the last 15-odd months of speculation, reaction and counter-reaction, not to mention global economic and political forces compared to which BLEU is a minor ripple.  All fur coat and no knickers. 
  3. Democracy means ‘rule by the people’.  Referenda are not a sensible means of achieving this where the population exceeds a few hundred.  In the present case, the canard that ‘the people have spoken' needs to be critically analysed and clinically destroyed by facts and logic.  For a start, only 37% of the electorate voted to leave.
  4. I often dip in to internet sites that support BLEU, and I’m dismayed not just by the lack of fact and focus, nor even by the outright blatant lies, but by the overwhelming volume of vitriol and personal abuse.  I counter this whenever it’s directed at me, of course (don’t ever enter into a slanging match with me, anyone, because I will win!).  But I am shocked by the amount of unnecessary sheer nastiness.  I thought this was a nice country.
  5. I’m getting a bit tired now, so I don’t want to go into the details of what this will do to everyone in this country’s personal day-to-day lives.  Two words cover most of it, actually – health, and safety.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Ray's Story


Z had taken the kids to the beach, but I’d opted to stay in the caravan.  After an hour or so, and having exhausted the entertainment potential of the newspaper, I dipped in to the small selection of books, leaflets and so on that reside in my bookrack there.  There’s a first aid manual, several quick’n’easy cookbooks, guides to walks and places to visit, and a few snatches of genuine local Pembrokeshire history.  It was one of those that captured me.

It’s a book of black and white picture postcards of Narberth, from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Old pictures are, of course, always good to look at; but what caught my eye was the foreword, which heaped lavish praise and thanks on Miss Ray Davies, without whom the enterprise would never have happened. 

I knew her quite well, and I just wanted to set down what I can about a rather intriguing character.

Rachel, only ever known as Ray, was born in 1916 and died in 2003.  She never married.  It was rumoured that this was because her heart had been broken, just after the war, by a scoundrel in Belgium, where as a WREN she’d been posted for unknown reasons following service at Bletchley Park on the Enigma code-breaking project. (She was probably one of the Bombe girls, but I haven’t been able to verify that.)  I’ve seen a picture of her, in uniform, from around that time, and can only say that the Belgian heartbreaker must have been crazy.

By the time I met Ray, her focus had both narrowed and broadened.  It had narrowed to a compulsion to sort, identify and catalogue.  The broadening was in the range of material she did this to.  It started, probably, with stamps – she worked for Stanley Gibbons in the thirties – then expanded to archaeological samples, coins, Victorian fans, local history…  After she died we found dozens of exercise books filled with quite indecipherable lists of stuff, which of course we had no choice but to throw away.  Nobody would have cared.  The stamps and fans were sold, not for much.

What started me on this, though, was the local history obsession.  She became, I think, an infuriatingly avid supporter of the Narberth Wilson Museum (which has since closed down and then reopened; it won some ‘best museum’ award a few years ago, and we really should try and visit it next time we’re there.)  She put a few backs up during this late phase of her life, but the important things are that it kept her going, and that her efforts, however misdirected by her oncoming dementia, did get recognised in the foreword to that rather splendid book of old postcards.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Mussels

I promised to tell you more about our caravan holiday, but it's too late to start on Ray's story now, so you'll have to wait till tomorrow again for that.
Meanwhile, here are two words I learnt on a wet evening: Scaup; and Mussitation.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Caravan Life is Alive and Well


Child: “Where’s my *insert child’s object of choice*?”  Adult: “Where you left it.”  Child (pauses): “I don’t know where I left it.  That’s why I’m asking you.”  Adult: *surrenders*

The craze this time was folding paper napkins into neat narrow oblongs.  There were also marbles and complicated card games.  I resisted engagement with any of this, of course, relying on Z to do what grannies do on cool windy wet afternoons trapped in a caravan with two small energetically unfocussed children.

It wasn’t all like that, of course.  We managed a fair bit of time on the beach, which had its usual effect on me.  When I rashly suggested that we might try a different one (I targeted Manorbier, partly, if I’m honest, because I really like the Castle Inn there and carefully timed the trip to arrive spot on for lunch), once the wind had got the better of us and we’d agreed that wasn’t on, Gus and Zerlina made it quite clear that they would much rather be back on what, to my delight, they called ‘our beach’.  (Technically, the correct term is ‘the local beach’, as my brother and sister will confirm, but hey, ‘our’ will do.)

I also welled up, briefly, when they came back up to the van and proudly announced that they’d once again climbed ‘Tim’s Rock’.  (Again, it’s more properly called ‘The Big Rock’, but hey again.)

 


There’s more.  I’ll post again tomorrow.

Still no rabbits.  I blame Joseph’s new lawnmower.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Royal Prerogative


It’s fairly certain there will be another general election within the next few months, and increasingly likely that it will result in another hung Parliament.  Constitutionally, the Queen is required, by convention, to call upon the leaders of the parties, in turn and in order of their representation in the House of Commons, to attempt to form her Government.  This has proved difficult enough recently, and won’t be any easier next time.  In fact it could prove impossible. 

So what happens then?  There are no historic precedents that I’m aware of.  Another election?  Same result.  Another one?  You get the point – we’d end up with an election at which nobody could be bothered to turn up.  And we’d still be without a Government.  Some might say that’s no bad thing; indeed when I lived in Italy in the sixties it seemed to be the norm, and Belgium went without one for at least a couple of years a while ago.  But it wouldn’t do for us, would it, eh?

Fortunately Z and I have come up with a simple solution.  Her Majesty will form her own Government.  She will continue to be Head of State, and of course Parliament will continue to be the Legislature*, but she will appoint her own Executive. 

But where to find the appointees?  We humbly suggest she looks to her own family.  We’ve drawn up a list of proposals for a few key Cabinet posts, and would welcome feedback before we forward the final recommendation to the Palace.

Prime Minister: Charles.**

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Anne.

Home Office: Camilla.

Foreign Office: William.

Defence: Harry.

Education: Kate.

Transport: Andrew.

Culture: Edward.

 

Unfilled posts include Health, Justice, Energy, Environment, Local Government, and Work & Pensions.  There are plenty of spare minor royals out there though.

 

*The Whip system will be abolished and MPs instructed to vote purely as representatives of their constituents’ interests and according to their own consciences, if any.

** We considered abolishing this position, but that would risk taking us too close to the American system, and besides, it’ll keep him out of mischief.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

United Kingdom?


I’ve just been listening to a radio programme about a 15 year old girl from Northern Ireland who needed an abortion but had to travel to England to obtain it, at a cost of several thousand pounds, because it’s still illegal there.  She challenged this through the law, with financial help from family and friends, and last week the Supreme Court of the UNITED Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ruled against her on the basis that residual regional powers outweigh national ones.  I can’t, obviously, challenge their lordships’ interpretation if the law, but I can and do question whether there is really one such thing as ‘the law’ in this so-called country – or indeed whether it can really be called a country any more.

Devolution – the biggest constitutional mistake since 1715 – has had the opposite of the intended effect.  The idea was that different parts of the land had different needs, which they should be allowed, within appropriate constraints, to express and control through their own legislative and judicial bodies.  Fair enough.  Where it went wrong was to do it the wrong way round.  They should have started with the body of law that applied to everyone and then asked the regions to justify their exceptions.  Instead they assumed the exceptions stood and ducked the inevitable outcomes when a Westminster law came to a head-on collision with a Stormont, Cardiff or Edinburgh one.

As it stands, we are neither one country nor are we several.  And it’s not gonna get any simpler…

 

 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Shoddy


There’s a good word, which shouldn’t be needed nowadays but obviously is.  Chambers says ‘origin unknown’, applying to both senses of the word, but I leave aside the wool-weaving one and would like to focus on the meaning we all know, which Chambers, as always, succinctly sums up: ‘badly made or executed.’  (There are several more adjectives in there, which I won’t… oh all right, I will: ‘inferior, pretentious, cheap, nasty, sham, badly made…’ you get the drift…)

I’d intended to rant about the obvious shoddiness we seem to be getting engulfed in, but I see that I don’t need to.  So I will anyway:

I am to be prosecuted for doing 68 mph on a traffic-free dual carriageway where the limit would normally be 70, but has arbitrarily been set to 60.  I’ll be fined £120 and my insurance premium will go up by another £100 or so next year.  The total cost of this, not including human effort and stress, will far exceed any benefit to any person or organisation.  The thinking (if any) that resulted in this outcome can only be described as shoddy.

The people (I assume humans still exist there) behind Facbok, a computer program I sometimes make use of, see it as their role to keep the universe on its toes and themselves at its centre.  They do this by changing their program whenever they suspect another human might have started to grasp it.  Unfortunately, they do this really badly.  Double shoddy.

… and thirdly – oh, I can’t be bothered to do thirdly.  It’s politics.