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Me, too

As the Weinstein affair and all it's ramifications have played out, I've been thinking a lot about my own conduct and behaviour down the years. It's human nature to think of oneself as the good guy, we all mythologise our own lives with our selves in a sympathetic light. But I'm sure, thinking back, that my actions and attitudes haven't always been the best. I am a chef, I work in a kitchen, places that run on banter, some of it sexual, some of it aggressive. Whilst I know I've never assaulted anyone, or pushed unwelcome advances, I've certainly been present when senior colleagues have said things which have made female members of staff uncomfortable (and done nothing beyond giving them grief about it), and I've certainly worked in one particular restaurant where a serial sexual predator worked.

Many years ago I had a waitress at the restaurant I worked at turn up on my doorstep in tears in the middle of the night. One of the floor managers had tried it…

40

Fancy that. Age, eh? It's almost as if it happens. I note that down the years I've only posted once or twice about birthdays. Truth to tell I've never been one to pay them much mind. So it seemed entirely fitting that I spent my fortieth birthday grafting away in my kitchen. Some vague apprehension that this one os supposed to be in some way marked led me over here to write this, but I feel faintly ludicrous doing sso. It did, however, lead to me looking up one of said few occasions when I posted about a birthday on here, my 29th, where I note about being proud of my students work that day. not sure what that proves, if anything. G'night.

New Conservatives

As the unedifying spectacle of the Conservative party conference grinds on, with the main halls half empty and the fringes full of the manic cheerfulness of the Weimar Republic, it's instructive to take a look at how the party is positioning itself in the face of the challenge from a resurgent Labour.

It isn't.

Rarely can a conference have offered up such a paucity of ideas. In the aftermath of Boris going wildly off piste before insisting that nothing of the sort occurred, and David Davis cheerfully denying that he's cheerfully admitted that he'll be long gone before the Brexit negotiations are concluded (leaving them all to the emperor of tact, Johnson himself) the message seems to have been shut up, hold tight and hopefully this will all blow over. It is Mayism in its rawest form, insist that everything is fine. Do nothing. It is this torpor which allows those who make the most noise, the Johnsons, the Rees-Moggs, to cast themselves as major players, the curious ine…

Brexit, football, myth and legend

Much gentle amusement was to be derived today from the more Brexity arms of our illustrious press, as they reacted with horror to Michel Barnier suggesting that it's a chance to explain the benefits of the single market. Who does he think he is? thundered the Mail, the Sun and the Telegraph were equally unhappy, much chuntering along the lines how this PROVES leaving the EU is the right thing to do etc. I expect the Express was upset too but seriously, who reads the Express?

Naturally, because it never does to let actual quotes get in the way of a good bit of xenophobia, they chose to interpret his remarks as "Teaching the UK a lesson". Which is, of course, an outrage, because what could we possibly learn from foreigners? As any fule kno, Blighty is the pre-eminent global power, and lesser nations should be grateful that we deign to let them speak our mother tongue and sample our innovative jams. The very idea that we might actually learn someting by listening to people …

Curious diversions

So I'm in a pub.

Not, admittedly, much of a shock. I've spent an unseemly proportion of my life since the age of fifteen in pubs. Mostly as a drinker but on various occasions as KP, chef, barman, manager, even a bouncer once or twice. I am well acquainted with pubs.

If, however, you had said to me at the start of the year that by this point of it I'd be cheffing in one, I'd have smiled politely and changed the subject (the days of bawling people out for imbecility are behind me as much as I thought cooking in pubs was). I had no intention of cooking professionally again once Source was done with. Let alone in a pub. A gastropub? No, a pub pub.

Now, before you go thinking that I've entirely lost my mind, I should explain that it is quite a nice pub, and, whilst not precisely pushing the boundaries of what's possible with gastronomy, it has a noble ambition. That of being a decent pub. Which is an ambition which I can fully get behind.

It's occurred to em a l…

Sister Act II: Back in the habit

Hello.

It may have escaped your notice that this particular vent for my various effusions has grown a touch quieter of late. Of course, seasoned long-term Coastalblog watchers, all one of you, will know that these sorts of longeurs are par for the course and eventually I trip back like a penitent drunk; replete with promises to do better and piteous apologies for letting you down yet again. In my defence, this time I've had a fairly good reason.

To a heady mix of regret and relief, your correspondent has wound up his long-time ball and chain/broken dream/drain of time/reasonably successful business/creator of marital discord (delete as applicable) and re-entered the world of working for other people. Which I don't propose to discuss here, because that would be crashingly dull. But the whole psychodrama of unravelling ten years hard yakka and sauntering off in a manner casual enough to convince the unseasoned observer has somewhat preoccupied me.

On a happier note, this sudden …

This is not campaigning

A few days ago, I was speaking to a local Labour Party worker. He was shrugging at the Tory effort around our neck of the woods, wasn't too worried about retaining the seat at the election; the theory being that they weren't trying hard, because nobody major had turned up.

Then two days ago the Prime Minister turned up.

My first thoughts, when I found out, were of that functionary, his confidence in retaining the seat must have taken a dent from the news that the biggest gun of them all had come calling. The funny thing was, though, nobody knew. I found out on the Today programme the next morning.

The constituency in which I live, West Lancashire, is a place of contrasts. I live in Ormskirk, a reasonably (though increasingly less) prosperous mix of market and student town. We're surrounded by blandly pretty countryside, some reasonably picturesque agricultural land and some chocolate box villages. Down the road, however, is Skelmersdale, the main reason that West Lancash…

Strange bedfellows

These are increasingly strange times.

I'm not going to pass comment on the rights or wrongs of Trump's surprise airstrike in Syria, other than to note that it's a surprising volte-face from a man who was consistently opposed to any form of foreign intervention even prior to his ultimately successful tilt at the Presidency. There's a hefty word-count already devoted to that particular issue, and I'm sure you aready have your own opinion.

I'm not even sure that I'm going to pass much comment on Trump's motivation. It seems unlikely that he was moved to tears by the "beautiful babies" as he put it in his emotional speech justifying the attack. Beautiful babies have been dying in Syria since the war started. He currently won't allow any of those beautiful babies into the US, as refugees from Syria are barred. So that seems unlikely. Some have suggested a deliberate muddying of the waters regarding Russia, and it's true that, a few disgrunt…

The colour of passports

Is this what it was all about?

Andrew Rossindell M.P: "it's a matter of identity, having the pink European passports has been a matter of national humiliation"

Now, leaving aside that my passport is a fetching shade of maroon, rather than pink (and that Rossindell's recoiling from that colour, imagined as it is, speaks to lengthy and expensive analysis required), and leaving aside the observation that I really don't understand why it matters what colour a passport holder is, given that it's the information inside which is important, and leaving even further aside the fact that we were already free to choose the colour of our passports (EU member Croatia's is a perfectly pleasant blue) I am forced to ask:

National humiliation?

Going cap in hand in the seventies to the IMF was a national humiliation. Our spiralling rates of child child poverty are a national humiliation. The fact that cancer survival rates in the UK are lower than most other comparable coun…

Entitlement: the most destructive force in the universe

Well, it's been a day.

I'm not about to go into grindingly tedious hand-wringing about the reasons behind Brexit. Nor am I going to bewail its finally being set in motion. Doesn't seem a lot of point, anyhow I'm a bit too busy battening down the hatches for the shitstorm which will ineivitably ensue. Now is not the time for gnashing of teeth. Particularly because your dentist bills will go up once that nice Polish nurse is told to do one.

But I will reflect, grimly, on one of the aspects of the national character which has led us to this point; and it was illustrated rather beautifully today, for shortly after Theresa May breezily told a house full of braying white blokes that trade negotiations would happen in parallel with the exit talks, over on the continent Angela Merkel was smiling thinly and saying nein. And I thought yep, that about sums it up.

You see, just because you say something's going to happen, doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to. Th…

The sparrows outside the window

I am, I confess, a birdwatcher.

Not in the traditional sense. I rarely go out with the express intention of spotting birds, rather it's something I do when already out. I'll own up to keeping a list, but that's mostly for the benefit of my son, who didn't display much interest in the natural world until he realised there were lists where you could tick things off, that it could be quantifiable: like collecting football stickers. I hope that having been sucked in by ticking boxes he'll end up just appreciating them for what they are.

This is the simple pleasure I've arrived at. And, to be honest, I don't have room in my head for every variety of bird (I used to, it's how I bonded with one of my oldest friends), these days I'd struggle to tell my sedge warbler from my reed warbler, and whilst I do follow rare bird twitter accounts, and was excited by the arrival of black terns at mere sands wood last summer, that's not really what gets me going.

I…

Virtue signalling for fun and profit

Oh I got into an argument on Twitter.

You may have noticed, there's a lot of that sort of thing about at the moment. I'm not about to go over already well-trodden ground. We all know the bigots are slithering out of the woodwork. You don't need me to point it out to you. But one aspect of their current standard practice is causing me considerable disquiet.

It's the phrase "virtue signalling". Generally used to dismiss somone who's said something vaguely liberal, or left leaning. Y'know, like maybe we shouldn't make thousands of child refugees sit in a dismal camp, prey to traffickers. Possibly, being the world's sixth largest economy, we could maybe afford to take a few more.

You're just virtue signalling, cry the trolls from their bedroom in their mum's house. You wouldn't have them come to live with you.

Of course; because not being able to fit a refugee into my terraced house is exactly the same as a GOVERNMENT not being able to…

A new authoritarianism

According to Theodor Adorno, elements of an authoritarian personality type include:

"Blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and wrong

Respect for submission to acknowledged authority

Belief in aggression toward those who do not subscribe to conventional thinking, or who are different

A negative view of people in general - i.e. the belief that people would all lie, cheat or steal if given the opportunity

A need for strong leadership which displays uncompromising power

A belief in simple answers and polemics - i.e. The media controls us all or The source of all our problems is the loss of morals these
days.

Resistance to creative, dangerous ideas. A black and white worldview.

A tendency to project one's own feelings of inadequacy, rage and fear onto a scapegoated group"

Source

Any of this sounding familiar?

The pace of events since June 23rd last year has been hard to keep up with, but the train of events set in motion by the Brexit vote is, somehow, impossib…

The unwritten places

I've been reading Roger Deakin's Waterlog, a moving and stille vocation of the seemingly faintly transgressive act of wild swimming. Being someone who tends to go against the grain, I've got a lot of sympathy for Deakin's cussedness, and determination to swim wherever the hell he pleases. This isn't, however, intended to be a book review, I'd recommend it,by all means, you should check it out, but it was one idea that came from the reading which particularly stuck with me.

Whilst exploring a series of Tarns in the Welsh Rhinog Mountains, Deakin discovers some ruined outbuildings, not marked on the map. It is this fact which pleases him most, the idea that we don't know everything, that maps can be wrong. I'd extrapolate further that this is a delight that life still has a bit of mystery to it (what on earth he'd make of Google Maps is anybody's guess, I imagine that for him they'd be something else stripping magic from the world). In this se…