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Showing posts from 2020

No longer a victimless crime

Some crimes are so commonplace that no one considers them to be so. Some crimes are committed by so many people that the line between criminal act and normal behaviour is obscured. In the eighties everyone taped albums for their mates, in the noughties no one thought anything of illegally downloading. Dodging tax is a national sport, paying your builder cash in hand, working for a few notes on the golf club bar to help out. It's all fine, isn't it? It's not like anyone gets hurt, as such. No one's going to get arrested over an eighth of weed, these days even a bit of cocaine can be overlooked. When everyone's doing it, is it even a crime any more? (Before I can be accused of climbing on my moral high horse, I should point out that I have committed all these acts, and far worse, I'm not judging here, more illustrating a point) I point this out because this week, something else commonplace, something nearly everyone does, crossed the line into criminal act. Not as

Jingle some of the way

 In an unusual experience for me, I turn out to have been  fairly accurate  in my predictions of what was going to happen this December. I sit here tapping away at my keyboard in the fathomless depths of Tier 3, a position to which I have largely reconciled myself (because there's not a lot of point doing anything else). This isn't going to be a post bemoaning the fate of the hospitality industry this December, there's no point to it. The Government made their choice, and they chose retail, and no amount of reasoned argument will change that. So, as my kitchen lies silent, I find myself in the highly unusual position of not having much to do in December. A spot of pottering to keep the place ticking over, but not much else. Bad news for me, even worse news for you, reader, as I have free time to bang out my ill-informed opinions and foist them upon a quite reasonably uncaring public. As already somewhat smugly noted, I got a fair bit about what was likely to happen this mon

Increment by increment

 I don't know about you, but I tell myself quite a lot of lies. It's a habit so deeply ingrained in me that I have no idea when it started, but for as long as I can recall I have told myself three absolute whoppers on a more or less daily basis.  1)There's plenty of time for that. 2) It'll probably work out okay because it's me. 3) Yes, yes, I'll definitely get that done today. Probably, unless you're a spectacularly together individual, you tell yourself something similar (or maybe none of you do, and my idea of "spectacularly together" is humanity's benchmark for "normal" but, given the conduct of various people in public life, I deduce that's probably not the case), in many cases it's sensible. If you didn't lie to yourself in this manner then you'd be in a permanent state of panic at not getting things done, and a bottomless well of despair at your own failure to act in a manner befitting a functioning human. I, de


 I'm sorry. I apologise. I was wrong. Now, that's not so hard to do, is it? Lord knows, as a man quick to anger, and quite frequently spectacularly wrong about things, I've had plenty of cause to utter those words over the course of a lifetime attempting (and quite often failing) to be on the right side of the argument (even as I type that I realise that seeing the world in those terms is, in itself, part of the problem). This is a post which is, in part, about politics, but it's also about football. I'm sure most have you have by now cottoned on to the fact that Priti Patel's mealy-mouthed non-apology for having been found to be in breach of the Ministerial code is the inspiration for this short piece. Despite an unequivocal report that found her to be a bully, and to have treated her staff to all manner of verbal abuse, the woman now immortalised by Boris Johnson's WhatsApp messages as "The Pritster" issued the standard defence of people who are

All I want for Christmas is....

Well, it's finally happening. The argument about Christmas has arrived. Not the confected culture war one about whether or not people get to bellow the word "faggot" in the Pogues' Fairytale of New York, though that one seems to come round earlier every year, doesn't it? No, the slightly more fraught one about whther we get to have a "normal" Christmas, whatever that is. Following Chekhov's dictum  of the gun on the wall in act one being used in act three, this little row's been coming down the pipe for a while; since July, in fact, when part-time Prime Minister impersonator, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson uttered the fateful words that it would "all be over by Christmas", and any keen student of dramatic cliche immediately felt their hearts sink. Clang, went the plot point. The young airman who's going to fly this mission and then go back and marry his girl? Dead. The cop one week from retirement? About to have a really shit da

Just let us enjoy it for five minutes, yeah?

He lost! The moment that most sane humans have been fervently praying for for the last four years has finally arrived. After an interminable period of watching numbers fail to move, more "Key Race alerts than I've had hot dinners, and much marvelling at the seemingly iron constitutions of all at CNN, the news was finally confirmed. And lo there was much rejoicing across the land. You'll have your own favourite bit, no doubt, Personally for me it's a toss-up between Nigel Farage losing a ten grand bet and the hilariously shambolic, bathetic ending, where a confused Rudy Giuliani, thinking he'd booked the Four Seasons Hotel for a press conference, stood blinking in the car-park of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, between a crematorium and a shop selling dildoes.  I am not by any stretch much of a US politics nerd. I know that most UK politics fans have a slightly dorky obsession over the US process which probably stems from watching too much West Wing , but it's s

Lockdown 2: Back in the Habit

 The weather, suitably, is dreich. The sky's filled in, the drizzle is unrelenting, all the better, were I a glib columnist dealing in clunking metaphor, to reflect the mood of nation, as we collectively enter Lockdown 2: This Time it's Personal. As with all sequels, this Lockdown comes freighted with prior knowledge of the original. We should, arguably, know what to expect and so, in that sense, it should be easier. With a more clearly defined end point than the original, it should, in theory, be easier to bear. Only four short weeks of seeing whether or not the sourdough bread-baking skills survived the months back in work, and then off we go. Viewed this way, Lockdown 2: Lockdown Harder should be negotiated fairly easily. A pain in the arse, yes, but at least we know what we're dealing with now. That's the Panglossian version of events, of course. A bit of time at home, recharge the batteries, maybe we'll get it right this time, get that pesky R rate down, we can


In among the various examples of David Cameron being a pillock in her hugely entertaining diaries , which caused a minor furore a few weeks back, the otherwise spectacularly un self-aware Sasha Swire made one hugely telling and perceptive point, described here in Rachel Cooke's excellent Guardian  interview  Following a Downing Street Christmas party in 2011, for instance, she notes that the closeness of Cameron’s circle is “unprecedented… a very particular, narrow tribe of Britain and their hangers-on”. It’s “enough to repulse the ordinary man" This sense of Government by chumocracy was one of the less edifying aspects of the already pretty ropy Cameron years. An idea of a few good pals lording it up at each other's houses and doing a spot of Governing when it suited them haunted the back of a fag packet policies of that intellectually threadbare period (in the book, Dave boasts of "winning a war" in Libya, conflating it with the great day he's just had on t

The Free School Meals Own Goal

As you're doubtless aware, HMG scored a fairly spectacular own-goal this week, with the decision not to extend free school meals (FSM) over the half-term holiday. The idea, advanced to tremendous effect by Marcus Rashford, was to ensure that no children go hungry when they're not in school. No one could argue with that, right? If we can all agree on one thing, it's that we're pretty anti-starving kids, right? And at a cost of a mere 20 million quid, which is chump change to a government which has wasted billions on Track and Trace that doesn't work, and hundreds of millions in contracts to their mates for PPE that doesn't work, it was a pretty cheap bit of good publicity. Well, as it turns out, there's a sizable element of the Tory party (and the wider populace, we'll get to them in a minute) which is pretty pro-starving kids. You may have seen the speech by Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative member for Bassetlaw, in which he spoke about not wanting

My life as a semi-reformed reply guy

While not being much of a one for resolutions, as the state of my liver, waistline and career will testify, I have, of late, been trying very hard to stick to one promise that I made myself, a fair time ago. I have been trying very hard not to be a reply guy. You know the ones, the ones who can't see anything without rushing to reply, convinced that what the world needs now is not, as Dionne Warwick would have had it, love, sweet love, but a great steaming bowlful of their opinion. (and why yes, I am aware of the irony of espousing this position on a blog, the very epitome of an opinion piece, but the crucial difference is that if you're reading this then you're probably doing so through choice) I'll freely admit to being loudly opinionated, as anyone with even a passing acquaintance with this blog or my various social media will be aware. Stridently so, at times, maybe even obnoxiously so. But what I'm trying, very hard, to do, is keep those opinions off other peop

Gordon Ramsay and the semiotics of the full English breakfast.

 It was bound to happen, sooner or later. A public which has spent a long time having to think and argue about serious things was just gagging for something trivial to get in a froth about. Sure, football's back, but is that trivial enough? Enter one-time chef turned full-time media personality Gordon Ramsay, and his iteration of that classic dish, the Full English Breakfast, the dish of which Somerset Maugham famously said "If a man wishes to eat well in England he should eat breakfast three times a day." Here he is announcing the Savoy Grill's breakfast It's hard to think of a dish more deeply embedded in the national psyches of the nations which make up the British Isles. I should like, at this point, to acknowledge that Full Irish, Scottish and Welsh breakfasts are all things of pure beauty, I mean no disregard by referring to a full English in this blog (though Ramsay, as a Scot, should have known he was playing with fire). Roast Beef maybe, Fish and Chips pr

Ruuuuule Britannnnniiiaaa

It's a sensible course of action when you're about to say something which might be touch contentious to get your excuses in early doors, so I'd better get my mea culpa in sharpish: I am entirely aware that this whole argument about Rule Britannia etc is an entirely confected culture war row designed to distract from the truly awful fist that HMG is making of, well, most things. I am, furthermore, aware of it's relative irrelevance when set against the slightly more important issues which face us, viz. global pandemic, imminent economic collapse, and incipient destruction of the earth's ability to heal itself.  But I'm going to write a blog post about it anyway, I am that shallow. Soz. It won't be a particularly long blog, you'll be pleased to hear, because it can be relatively easily summed up, to wit: incoming director of the ossified Proms thinks "hey, an audience free year might be the time to freshen up the schedule", reckoning the lack of

Dishy Rishi's Fishy Dishes

A great week for fiscally prudent gourmands, as this week marked the opening of the Government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme. An awkwardly titled affair (insert your own jokes here, actually, insert's the wrong word, different act altogether), which is intended to help the hospitality industry recover from the ravages of the COVID pandemic, it sees HM Treasury pay up to a tenner a head towards the cost of a meal. The Government paying you to go out for tea, what's not to like? Now, one could certainly make the case that this is the sort of innovative thinking required to steer the country through choppy economic waters, and evidence on the ground suggests that public uptake of the idea has been enthusiastic (we were rushed off our feet, busiest Wednesday ever*), Hats off to Rishi for daring to be different, and a big thumbs up for cheap steaks all round. Happy punters, full restaurants, a shot in the arm for an ailing industry. One could also make the case that this is an ab

A brief moment of calm

Sometimes, there is a particular sort of stillness before things start becoming lively. The hackneyed phrase would, I suppose, be "the calm before the storm" but I'm not overly sure that that's the right one. Like most overworked drudges of phrases it has lost something of its original meaning and become universally applicable. In my case, I had such a moment of stillness yesterday, and it's hopefully not a storm that's coming. I should explain. I've spent the last couple of weeks of my personal lockdown pottering about getting ready to open up a pub. This was not something I expected to be doing at the start of lockdown. Another overused phrase, though one of more recent vintage, is "life comes at you fast", grammatical pedantry aside it's a reasonable enough way of describing my recent change of circumstances. I've moved from employee to employer with bewildering speed. Owning a business again wasn't remotely part of my thinking a f

Punching down

First up, I'm going to stick my hand up and admit to rank hypocrisy. In my last post, I was somewhat unkind about Ashford, in Kent. A heavily Leave-voting place that is now aghast to find a dirty great lorry park planned for it. Chuckle, chortle, chuckle, you reap what you sow etc. In my defence, I did at the time say it was a touch churlish. I'm now going to argue against precisely that view-point. If you wish to cast this blog aside in disgust, I shall quite understand, but I'd urge you not to do so, I don't want to be responsible for a broken phone. The reason for this is that today Twitter is awash with people giggling at Cornwall asking  for 700 million quid  to replace the EU funding which is disappearing. Ha ha they cry, you won, you voted Leave, ho ho, now you want money. We told you this would happen. And we did, but hang on a second before condemning poor old Kernow. While schadenfreude is undoubtedly a lot of fun, it's not necessarily a good look when you

Who was that masked man?

I can't keep up with the culture war, it's completely exhausting. There we were arguing about statues, and before you know it we're arguing about defunding the police, and then we're arguing about precisely what Marxism means. Then, last week, we started arguing about  cancel culture , and that argument was still rumbling on as of yesterday so I thought brilliant, a chance to draw breath. Except no. The multi-faceted, multi-generational brouhaha in which our commentariat are lucratively engaged has opened up a new front, and it's not one that I saw coming (no job as a super-forecaster working for Dominic Cummings for me, which is just as well, I'm already doing French and Gaelic on Duolingo, I don't want to have to do Russian as well), though I suppose, in hindsight, I should have done. Wearing masks. I mean, really . As with so much else down the years, the Culture War is a US import. And as we in the UK always do when we anglicise something that we've

Cancel Culture Club

One for the teenagers, that reference. Yes, seems like everybody these days is getting cancelled, which is to say, getting massively piled on on the internet to the extent that it effects their ability to function, and lots of people are angry about it. Though precisely what it is they're angry about is, as yet, ill-defined and hazy. You may have seen that rather self-satisfied and vague letter that a bunch of people sent to Harper's Bazaar (Mic Wright does a rather excellent deconstruction of it  here ). Then things kicked off yet further when it turned out that JK Rowling was a signatory, and a bunch of people are upset with her due to her views on trans rights. Then people got upset with the people who got upset, and lots of people whose very job is to be paid to say things complained that you can't say anything any more, despite them actually saying things. I started to tune out slightly at this point, to be honest. I've long been a big fan of the robust exchange of

Blind Panic

It's been a funny few days for the seasoned Brexit watcher. The whole soap opera had become a bit moribund over the last few months, as the gripping Coronavirus plotline continued to preoccupy the writers. But now that everyone's pretending that everything's fine, even those who are aware that it isn't are finding their levels of background terror subsiding enough to start to worry about other things. Top of the list, of course, is that the deadline for extending talks slipped by just yesterday. True to their word, the Government haven't asked to extend. Not only that, but they've decided that they can probably do without their chief negotiator, shunted back to Whitehall to fill the brogues of the recently defenestrated Sir Mark Sedwill. It's not as if we have to get a deal done before the end of the year or anything. As to the purpose of this half-arsing of the negotiations, that's anybody's guess. The wilder shores of internet opinion are convinced