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A matter of perspective… No, no, it isn’t

I was reading just yesterday, on that excellent means for wasting time and creativity, a defence of the US Republican Party against the frequently made charge that they are on the right wing edge of a political system so out of whack compared with the rest of the rich, industrialised world that you might as well be looking at the court of Philip II of Spain, or maybe one of the Manchu Emperors for all the connection they have with civilised political discourse.

It was a good defence, pointing out all the things the Republicans had in common with European parties and calling out  to the many more extreme, dictatorial and cruel governments there are in the world. I almost wish I could find it now to take to pieces the rhetorical devices that had me nodding along and saying ‘Yes, yes, why can’t we all get along…’

(Brexit fatigue is hitting pretty strongly just now.)

And then today I read this.  

It’s the story of how a teacher in California who is sick with cancer is having to make a financial contribution to the salary of the substitute who has taken her place.

It gets worse.

The law under which this is done was passed in 1976.

Both my parents were teachers. I have ranted before about how right wing politicians in particular like to bully the people who try to ensure that the next generation can read, write, do basic arithmetic and wipe their own arses.

And since the time when I was just completing my post-graduate year at Manchester this vile piece of legislation has been there to make clear to the world that the people the Californians elect to run their affairs consider the teaching profession a bunch of worthless skivers who if they grow too sick to turn up and perform their thankless tasks must be punished for having the temerity to want to be public employees.

My good will for the conservative wave in modern culture has just evaporated again.  I am prevented by my age, ill  health and basic laziness from organising a revolution but I do wish I had done more recently to discomode the fellow travellers in the Tory party.

I  voted LibDem in the European elections (some of us have postal votes you know) so Nigel Farage sending me a photo of his repulsive visage and a bunch of self-serving drivel this morning was wasting his time. But I do wish I could do something that would get through the seemingly infinite thickness of the PM’s skull and that she could not rationalise away.

Ah well, it’s too late to take up tumbril driving at my time of life, citizens.

A Dialogue Between the Author and His Cat

“You have returned, provider of my daily fare. Did you pursue your intention to see the long awaited conclusion of the tale so long extended?”

“I did, oh companion and guardian of my home. Let me provide you with your supper (delayed by my fault in going to seek repast for myself) and then you may climb upon my lap while I describe the event and my conclusions.”

“It is a minor matter. Please do not allow it to happen ever again.”

A short time later…

“So then, what were your findings with regard to this work so much heralded forth in the gossip of the commonalty and the purveyors of daily tittle-tattle? (Yes, a little more there along the spine…)”

“I found it pleasing enough. In truth I could have delayed my delighting in it longer as is my custom with most such presentations, until the numbers attending are fewer and the press of the commonalty less close upon the judicious and superior soul were it not for the ‘spoiler’ warnings on every piece of rumour and review. Had I waited much longer the whole plot would have been revealed and the viewing pointless.”

“You have been known to not view something until you had the opportunity to read the summation of the plot posted by those who had gone before.”

“True but in this case I wished to see how they resolved the challenge set up by all the previous films and how much they could work in. In that regard it was good but not excellent. You will be unsurprised that the ending, though heroic and satisfactory as an ending was written by those who cared little for the philosophic implications of what they contrived.”

“In brief?”

“As expected the plot involved Chrononautic Expeditions and left the history of the fancied universe dangling in shreds and tatters of paradox.”

“Alas. But heroic deeds were done?”

“They were and heartstrings were plucked to good effect. I had no complaints in that regard.”

“Where did you have complaints?”

“In the darkness of the cinematography. I have mentioned to you before that fight scenes especially and most particularly those in fantastic narratives are murky and unclear to me. I do not think my advanced age is entirely to blame but rather the fancies of the directors.”

“You were away a good long time. Did the length of the piece cause you distress?”

“Some, it is true and the fact I was pent in and cut off from the exit by people entranced by the spectacle made leaving my seat impolite and impractical. But I discovered new reserves of resolve and physical capacity and despite being in my seat for three and a half hours did not disgrace myself, though my teeth were grinding by the end.”

“A heroic narrative of your own!”

“Indeed. The exercises I have been performing for the benefit of my left hip must have increased the strength of my pelvic muscles notably.”

“A cause for rejoicing. Though we could both be happier if it were leading to a great reduction in your paunch.”

“One must be philosophical in these things.”

“Finally, if a humble one may ask…”

“Is there such a being in the vicinity?”

“Why are we discoursing in such refined and polite tones this evening?”

“Because my old friend David Langford has, in a book of his reviews I obtained at the Eastercon, made mention of a collection of Kai Lung stories I had not previously known of. I purchased it in electronic format and it is all over my prose style just now.”

“By mentioning this tome…”


“…you pass the kindness on to the world. The balance of your karma improves. You may even be reborn as a cat someday.”

“A felicity of which I am unworthy.”

There’s a lot of funny people about

I was heading towards the bus station after my visit to the gym and my shopping at Tesco when I spotted a young, burly looking chap, taller than me who was looking around as if checking no-one important was looking.

Having clocked me and apparently deciding I didn’t count he nipped over to one of the aluminium clad concrete pillars that hold up the roof there by the library, stuck his tongue out and gave it a big lick. He then left in a hurry.

Is this a thing? Is it the latest health movement? Are young people suffering from aluminium deficiencies? Or maybe a lack of concrete in their diets?

Is it like the strange procedures that are supposed to send a pleasurable tingle up your spine? Will there be concerned headlines in the DAILY MAIL?

If there are, remember you saw it here first!

And another thing.

Every weekday morning just now when I finally emerge from my morning ablutions there’s the sound of an air horn somewhere nearby playing La Cucaracha . I’m not quite paranoid enough to think it’s the Observers letting people know that Cule is stalking the world so I’m assuming that it’s something to do with the team that has been refurbishing from just outside my flat to the start of the High Street.

Will I miss them when they go? Will they ever go? How big a fuss will the local horde of tut-tut merchants make when they see the final result of the refurbishment? Will I want to join them?

Chris, Roger’s wife, has a rant all prepared about the new lamp posts with the name of the road in illuminated letters on them. Me I’m more likely to kvetch about the quality of the pavement they leave us with.

Any back to my main point which is air horns.

Why would anyone want one of these pieces of 1950s technology? Clearly it’s evidence of deep insecurity to have a horn on your car that draws that much attention to you and evidence of obsessive compulsive behaviour to do it every bloody weekday morning regular as clockwork.

And now I go and look it up I find that those horns that play music aren’t what are called Air Horns nowadays anyway. I don’t know what they are called but they only seem to come in two tunes La Cucaracha and Dixie. Why no British GrenadiersWhy no Lilliburlero

THE PLAIN PEOPLE OF HIGH WYCOMBE: Have yer got that out of yer system now?

I think so yes. I need to go and lie down.

TPPoHW: A bit Paul Jennings this.

Hmm, yes. Not that that’s a bad thing, considering.





On Hearing that the PM might call a General Election.

(It was the headline in the GRUANIAD amongst other places.)

And what good, pray, would that do?

It would not give a clear answer to the most pressing and important question of the hour: What to do about Brexit?

It might, it is true, produce a government with enough of a majority to push through its own view of how Brexit should be handled but only perhaps. It is quite conceivable that it produces a further stalemate.

How would any of the parties be able to produce a unified and believable manifesto on the topic of Brexit? How would my local MP, who is a member of the ERG, stand on a platform that would suit Dominic Grieve, the anti-Brexiteer in the next constituency over? Both the major parties are split on the issue, sometimes several ways.

And both the major parties are officially of the opinion the Brexit Is The Only Way. Given our outdated and deliberately unrepresentative electoral system how are those of us who want nothing to do with it to have any chance of being heard?

It’s like being told that you have to shoot yourself in the foot but you are going to be given the important choice of which foot to shoot yourself in.

(I’ve used that line three times today: I’m that vain about it… Some major commentator should take it up. I would only charge a small amount for the rights. And some annoying person will now come along and tell me I’m unconsciously stealing it from somewhere.)



Adventures in getting old: Probably not a flerken

This what getting old is like.

I bought myself a new office chair a while back because the old one had become totally worn out. Bought it from Office Outlet, which used to be Staples and which will be vanishing sometime in the near future, and assembled it at home.

All went well until a few weeks ago when the back went a bit wonky. I wondered why but found no obvious solution.

At the start of this week I found a threaded bolt on the floor and worked out that it had fallen from the back of the chair, identified where it had come loose from and carefully placed it on the desk with the resolve to get the tool box out and screw it back into place.

I get home from the gym later that day and look on the desk. No bolt. Not to worry, the desk’s a bit cluttered: I’ll clean it up and have a proper search later.

Two ruddy days of clearing crap off the desk, searching on the floor under the desk, asking Monty if he is a flerken who has swallowed the thing. Monty will neither confirm nor deny. No sign of the ruddy thing.

Then it turns up on the table. Not the desk. The table I have also poured over half a dozen times. If Monty isn’t a flerken then am I either haunted or so absent minded and unobservant that I can miss such a ruddy obvious thing.

Still I got out the tool box.

And then I noticed it didn’t have a screw head but a hexagonal head.

And though I would have sworn I had kept it I don’t seem to have the hex key that came with the chair.

The bolt is back in place but not terribly secure. Maybe next time I’ll do what I keep swearing I’ll do and buy one of the really expensive executive chairs. Life’s too short to be vulnerable to the whims of flerkens.


A Week is a long… Oh, Wait…

I had the outline of the next in my ‘Brexit countdown’ series written in my head and then the counter got reset. Time is still ticking forward but I don’t actually know when the day of doom is.

Does anyone know if someone in Parliament has remembered to schedule a vote to reschedule Brexit? Because if it doesn’t happen I can see the ERG getting all huffy about it. Rees-Mogg is a Catholic and I could see him pulling a ploy from the Sedevacantists playbook for years to come if every t isn’t crossed and every i isn’t dotted. (“We really left the EU back in 2019! Yes we did! You can read all about it on my web page…”)

That aside, I came across a poster on my favourite media site for RPGs who was expressing a point of view I had previously  only found on Quora: that though he supported Remain, maybe all the cack that the process of Leaving has stirred up is enough to make staying part of the EU less worthwhile and that was just enough to push him into not caring enough to fight anymore.

This wasn’t the ‘I voted Remain but since then I have realised that the EU is a bunch of expletives-that-should-be-deleted and if they asked me to vote again…” thread that I see a lot of and always  suspect of being churned out by a troll factory somewhere. It was more “I think we cannot resolve this well any more and should fold our tents and slink away”.

So let me say that I will have none of this! I am especially annoyed to find it on a site dedicated to RPGs, an art form that celebrates agency, action, being able to overcome obstacles in a heroic fashion. Like James T. Kirk facing the  Koyabashi Maru test I do not believe in No Win Scenarios!

Of course, the odds of my being able to reprogram this particularly depressing simulation are low to nil. But the thought is important too.

Eight Days to Go

I got to watch Theresa May’s speech after last night’s meeting with the other party leaders (minus Jeremy  Corbyn) at which  it is believed she told them all that she was right and they were wrong. Strangely, this did not move their hearts to repentence.

She then came out and told us what we felt. Something that will get up the noses of at least two thirds of the population. She also said that she was ‘on our side’ which  must have had nearly everybody shouting ‘Oh no you’re not!’ at the screen. You wouldn’t believe the number of people on the Internet who believe she is a fiendish mastermind who is doing her best to frustrate the will of the people. If they mean by the will of the people leaving the EU without a deal a week tomorrow then she  is one of the main factors tending to bring it about in spades.

What was fascinating to me from a technical point of view was the fact that she has managed to rise so high in politics without any comprehension of the art of rhetoric. I have seldom heard a speech delivered with such monotone and inflexible delivery. It wasn’t that she was tired or that she was recovering from a sore throat, though both of those were true. It was that  she didn’t have the first idea how  to talk to a camera or an audience.

Of the people I’ve watched speaking only Elizabeth Hurley is more robotic. How the hell did she get chosen  as an MP, let alone rise to Cabinet rank?

The people who believe in the fiendish Remainer plans of Theresa May seem mostly to be terribly confident that they will be betrayed by Parliament and Brexit will be withdrawn. I could wish I was as confident as them but I think they are just unable to believe that Daddy  and Mummy will not come along and save them from the  responsibility that’s about to fall on them.

To all my friends and comrades who will be marching on Saturday to try to invoke the legendary common sense of the British nation, good luck but I’m still medically excused marching. I’ll be there in spirit.

Actually, let me add one more thing.

Someone asked what happens if TM resigns before Brexit Day.

And I could answer. I did a quick search  and she doesn’t seem to have an appointed Deputy.

Who would take over as caretaker PM if she was to suddenly throw in the towel and go to spend more time with her family? Is there a law?