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Once more unto the… oh wait…

You will doubtless have heard by now that the Prime Minister has just bottled it. (I think that is the phrase that will be used in the majority  of politically active households for today’s events.)

She got her horse up to the starting post after years of breeding and training and then at the end cancelled the race lest someone else’s nag should win.

Now, I have tried very hard to be fair to the PM over the past two and a bit years. Though she was doing things I regarded as folly and moonshine I could at least see why she felt she had to do them and that she was doing them in very difficult circumstances. Those difficulties were partly of her own making and mostly of her party’s making but they were none the less real.

But here we come to the end of the Parliamentary road. There are only a few paths left and she still thinks there are options to be explored, some way she can reconcile the irreconcilable, make the nation unite behind one plan…

Theresa my sweet, you can’t. There’s no more give and take left. Any changes in the Withdrawal Agreement would a) be purely cosmetic and b) take far longer than we have.

People in Parliament have reached the point at which they are voting on principle. Even more shocking than that MPs in the Conservative Party are voting on principle. Your fellow Tories, dear Prime Minister, are not singing from the same hymnbook. They are unlikely to be at any  time in the near future.

To make things worse, the Leader of the Opposition is under the illusion that a General Election is the way forward. Now, I’m not saying that he would be a bad PM or that the election of Labour under his leadership would be any more disastrous or destabilizing than the last two and a half years. But on the Big Issue of the Day electing a party that stands on a whole raft of policies isn’t the way forward, especially with our rotten electoral system, especially with Labour still trying to be all  things to all people.

What is needed is a chance to put all possibilities back to the People, the  ones who through the incompetence of your predecessor in office, got to drop us in  this shit.

So here’s what I’d propose if I were allowed to pop up in the Commons.

  1. Ask the EU for a six month extension in the negotiating period and another six months on the base time of the transition period after leaving.
  2. Put forward two referendums one following the other after about a week or two.
  3. In the first ask: “Do you approve of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU?” This gives the lunatics who want a ‘hard Brexit’, a ‘clean break’ or whatever is their preferred euphemism for maximum pain right up front, a chance to put their ideas to the people.
  4. Then ask: “In the light of the result of the preceding referendum do you really, really want to Leave the EU?”

And then do what the People instruct.

Don’t for the love of God either let us wander into a No-Deal Brexit without the People supporting it or reverse Article 50 without popular support. If you do your name will be even more accursed by later generations than David Cameron’s.

Adventures of a Grumpy Old Man

I woke up Monday morning to discover that during the night the fuses had tripped on the plugs in the flat. Nothing appeared to be malfunctioning that I could see so I shrugged and went about resetting clocks and what have you.

Today was a Wet And Miserable Day in High Wycombe so I decided to pull some chilli out of the freezer and bake a loaf of bread.

I’m on a baking kick at the moment and am even trying to build up a sourdough starter and reading Elizabeth David’s ENGLISH BREAD AND YEAST COOKERY to answer the question: what did the Middle Ages do for yeast since they didn’t have the dried stuff? The answer is ‘it’s complicated’ but at least I have learned why a barm cake is called that. (Because it uses ‘barm’ to leaven the bread, which is the yeast froth off beer or wine.)

Anyways when I knocked back the loaf and got it into the tin, I turned on the oven or at least tried to. The main oven was out and that’s when I realised what must have tripped the fuses the night before last.

So I rang up John Lewis Extended Warranty people and they told me to ring Belling. “Why aren’t you ringing them yourselves?” was the first grumpy thing out  of my mouth: I’m usually pretty annoyed after being told for the third time that my call might be recorded. Their perfectly reasonable reply was that Belling were going to need to ask me when I was available. Which in a world of Chinese Whispers was a good point.

Then John Lewis told me I would need to provide Belling with the model number and serial number of the cooker. And that these were on the front of the cooker inside the oven door. Which they were. In a font so small that I had to take a magnifying glass with me when I clambered down and lay  on the floor. My grump increased and I do wonder how anyone in (say) a wheelchair or with a bad back is supposed to do that.

And the really annoying thing? Belling saying no they didn’t need those and the engineer could make a note of them when he came… Which isn’t for two weeks but I can manage until then if I plan properly.

Left hand meet right hand… It’s enough to make me doubt (again) the so-called efficiency of the private sector.

And then I got looking at the problems the US Congress caused with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and reflecting that it  must just be the human race in general.

I can’t help reflecting that  I may be getting a reputation among the  people answering service help lines as a bit of a barm cake though.

I cooked the loaf in the top oven in the end and it came out rather lopsided. Note to self: no tin loafs for the next two weeks. Something low slung when I do the sourdough.

Meaningless omens: number 333 in a series

I opened my phone
And a pop up from the Podcast app appeared saying:

Hope is available

Gosh I thought: I could use some of that.

I consumed the promised discussion while exercising at the gym for the first time in three days. They seem to have used the recent closure to give it a thorough clean, get the heating started for winter (we shouldn’t have to warm ourselves up that much) and fix a number of minor faults.

Nonetheless, the weighing machine wasn’t working so I can’t tell you how much good I’m doing myself by all this working out.

Philosophical discussion seems to work even better than Sousa marches (my other habitual accompaniment on the rowing machine and the exercycle) at making the effort fly by and keeping my body’s complaints at what I’m doing out of the front of my mind.

Today’s was a good one: a survey of the idea of hope from the last thing in Pandora’s jar to Albert Camus and Heidegger. Is it a sheet anchor or a deception? Are faith and hope necessarily in competition? Must we choose between hope in this world or in the next? (I’d say no but my ideas on this are agnostic as well as probably heretical.) More Big Name Philosophers were tagged than you’ll find in a week of Final Exams.

I really do envy Melvyn Bragg his gig. He gets to chat to experts and tell them that they’re going to have to skip over the rest of the nineteenth century so they can get to Nietzsche and how he changed his mind about hope as he got older.

I suspect I indulge in too much of the false sort of hope brought on by signs and omens. When there is no applicable superstition I’m liable to see portents in things like the pop-up I started with. I do wonder how much I need that sort of false meaning projected on the random events of the universe to give me a sense of agency and my own special insight into What’s Going On. A tendency that has to be watched rather than eliminated I think.

Another Blow to my vanity

An old acquaintance sent me this photo that he had discovered among the  effects of someone who directed me once back when I was doing my postgraduate year at Manchester.

Having got my degree from Oxford and being willing to avoid the Real World(TM) for another twelve months I let my father persuade me to apply to do a year’s postgraduate course in acting. There were two university courses (IIRC) back then. One was at Bristol which I flubbed the audition for quite magnificently. One was at Manchester who wrote back saying that they weren’t running the Acting course that year but they did have another course in Television Production… So of course I ended up doing a course I was neither suited for nor capable of exploiting. Eventually I had to go off and try to make a living out of acting a year later than my contemporaries. I often wonder if that had an effect.

Anyway, hanging around the Drama Department (who were officially in charge of my course) caused me to long for doing the  thing I was actually good at and so I ended up with a part in their end of the year production, a weird bit of near-future dystopia, a musical called CUPID’S CHILDREN. All about the corporate sector taking over prostitution. I got to play a lecherous and corrupt judge and I went right over the top.

And the photo shows me at the time at the height of me being… the person I was then.

My thoughts on looking at this bit of history were two fold:

  1. I wasn’t bad looking back then. I wish I’d had more confidence in myself when it came to GURRLS.
  2. Look at that expression. If that’s not a brooding, entitled, vain piece of teenage angst stretching over into my 20s I don’t know what it is. I really want to kick my young self in the backside.

I wonder that people put up with me, I really do.

I’m not sure I approve of this Modern Development (No 1 in a series)

Seen today in Sainsbury’s.

A Gin Advent Calendar.

I really don’t think this is on, you know. No not even for Roger…

And the ladies of the writing group are talking about keeping in touch by WhatsApp. Two fellows in Mexico got burned to death because of WhatsApp….

As a sign of how serious I’m being…

…about getting something done with my writing these were delivered today: the WRITERS & ARTISTS YEARBOOK and the CHILDREN’S WRITERS & ARTISTS YEARBOOK. I wouldn’t have known the latter existed if Lindy hadn’t told me so thanks to her again. In the background is Monty who does not yet know of my plans to immortalise him as Master Tobias Crumhallow.

Would he resent it? Master Crumhallow has a deeper voice than Monty and a rather rougher accent but the ears and the smudges on the nose are him.

The bit I am dreading most about getting the manuscript of DAGONET into circulation is writing bloody synopses. I may have ranted about this before.

And I’m going to circulate it among my friends. Anyone who has time to look at an Arthurian Young Adult novel and can either give ego-boo (“Gosh, it’s wonderful!”) or editorial advice or preferably you know both should get in touch.

Just back, fairly fired up

I’m just back from a week spent at a ‘writing for children and young adults’ workshop run by the ARVON FOUNDATION, a long established provider of encouragement and advice for those who want to write.

It was held at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire, once the home of Ted Hughes and before that the home of the owner of the mill that now lies derelict at the bottom of the valley. The photo shows the autumn trees and autumn skies above the site this morning.

I hope it has fired me up enough to do the rewrite that I think my completed project needs and the nerve to keep on submitting it should anyone be so foolish as to reject my masterpiece.

And I had a flash of ideas for another more humorous work. Let’s see how it goes.

We had a large group of frighteningly talented people there, all women but me and one of the tutors. I found myself singing PRETTY WOMEN as I stood outside waiting for my lift out (Thank you Lindy!) but quickly realised that given the source it could be misunderstood…

Speaking of morbid matters. this is one piece I didn’t get to show off at the workshop, an assignment to do a ‘gothic’ story. I may post other samples here if my self-confidence and vanity last.


“Yes, yes,” said the old man impatiently. “It is always sad when such great houses fall into desuetude. But I hope we are both men of business. You did not drag me out here to exchange platitudes, Mr Pulsifer.”

The slight, pale young junior solicitor begged the bookseller’s pardon. He was more than a little overawed by the old man, hair as white as snow and as long as any maiden’s, falling like fine lace across the black velvet of his jacket. The old man who his senior partner had insisted be brought in to assess the Library at Hellvellyn Hall.

J.D. Sombre, Bookseller and Antiquarian

1 Valterrerea Chambers W2

said the business card in tiny, elegant and nearly unreadable text.

The old man sniffed down the entire length of his nose and allowed himself to be conducted up the worn spiral staircase to the locked door at the top of the North Tower.

The junior solicitor fumbled at the huge ring of heavy antique keys he’d been entrusted with and after much effort managed to open the door into the tiny turret room, lined with books and smelling of mildew on parchment.

The old man was not impressed.

“The Sumerian scrolls, or rather the the alleged Sumerian scrolls are inferior copies from Egyptian scribes. Worth more as parchment than information. The Von Juntz your senior partner made so much of in his letter is a third edition and heavily censored. The medieval witch trial evidence might be valuable to a few collectors of curiosities I suppose…”

The old man sighed and took off his pince nez to polish them. He leaned back in the chair the late Master of the Hall had read so much dubious lore in for so long.

“Didn’t he ever,” the old man grumbled, “apply his reading? Did he have no dark fire in his soul? Did he never do anything or only read?”

The junior solicitor protested that he had understood the older man to be a bookseller.

And Antiquarian!” came the stern reply.

Ah, said the junior solicitor and led the other down the spiral staircase and into the courtyard where the late (and last) Master of the Hall had been found face down in the lily pond.

A gilded statue of a naked nymph stood in the centre of the pond, vainly covering her maidenly parts as if startled while bathing.

The old man glared a question at the younger who in his turn merely gestured across the pond as if to say ‘if you would but observe…’

The eyes of the nymph blinked and looked, from side to side as if seeking a way of escape, from the older man to the younger man as if looking for some mercy where she knew there would be none.

Only the eyes lived. The rest was frozen and inhuman.

“Ah,” said the old man. “Now we can negotiate!”