Monday, December 31, 2018

Some International New Year's Eve Celebrations, by JD


"Dinner For One" (1963) - Freddie Frinton's manservant heroically lifts a glass for each of May Warden's absent friends, for every course...

This comedy masterpiece has been shown on German TV for the last 55 years - we put it up last NYE but think it's a worthy tradition for Broad Oak Magazine, too:


Not exactly New Year's Eve but a midwinter celebration of Lucia, the return of the light after the winter solstice. The origins of the Lucia Tradition are explained in this first video:

- and here is how Jonna Jinton commemorates it:


This one is bizarre when you see the picture in the first link but it is explained in the second link. The twelve grapes is inherited from the Spanish tradition but the others look like mad inventions.

Still, I suppose every tradition has to start somewhere. Who would have thought that the Germans would fall in love with Freddie Frinton and make it an annual ritual!

More about Chilean NYE here:

- and here:


Some Spanish practices:

Anne Igartiburu has become a fixture on Spanish TV every New Year's Eve (not sure which year this is). Paradoxically, she commands a big audience but hasn't got much coverage...


And for Caledonian Hogmaniacs, this is the first TV broadcast of Hogmanay in 1957-into-1958:

Oidhche mhath!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Trump Wall, In Context

In January 2018 President Trump requested $25 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

In August, the Government Accountability Office warned that the project could cost more than estimated; but didn't quantify this, so we'll have to go with the figure given.

The US Federal Budget for 2018/19 is $4,407 billion. This is more than expected income so requires a deficit of $985 billion to make up the difference.

The US has a National Debt of $21,600 billion, implying $363 billion in interest charges in 2018/19.

 This chart is to visualise the relative size of the Wall's cost. The Wall is equivalent to 0.57% of the annual budget, or 2.5% of the deficit, or 6.9% of the annual interest on the National Debt.

Cancelling the Wall would make very little difference to the national finances. [UPDATE, 6.1.19: even less, if the current demand for $5.6 billion is agreed.]

The costs and benefits of unauthorised Mexico to US migration seem hard to establish. There are something like 10 - 12 million such migrants [correction: not all Mexican - see comment below] now residing in the US. If many of these represent cheap labour, then that is a benefit to employers; but the cheap labour force will pay little in income tax and may be entitled to supplementary in-work benefits, which is a cost to the State and in effect a subsidy to the employer. Also, wealthy Americans have many clever ways to keep down their tax contributions and are more likely than the average wage earner to put spare money into investments rather than personal expenditure. 

Whereas if restricting migration and foreign imports increases labour wages, then the American working class may be more self-sufficient in income, pay more in taxes and also be more likely to spend spare cash, stimulating demand. Perhaps this could help bring the budget into balance.

If allowed to proceed, the Wall would be one useful test of that theory.

Proportional Representation: Paralysis and Parasites

"I am a great enthusiast for a couple of almost unique pillars of US and UK democracy:  the first past the post principle in designating the winners of elections and the winner takes all notion of governance following the elections.  To anyone who finds these principles unexceptional, I must explain that they run directly against the operative principles of many if not most nations on the Continent, where progressive political theories stressing consensus and inclusiveness have given us executives and legislatures which are utterly incapable of being disruptive. What we get here in Old Europe tends to be coalition governments or power-sharing in which parliamentary majorities are hobbled together by distributing the spoils of office, assigning ministerial portfolios with utter disregard for policy coherence or the competence of the appointees. The stasis in policy results in voter apathy and works directly against the vibrancy of democracy."

- Gilbert Doctorow

"Proportional representation - instead of voting for an MP, like we do in Britain, Weimar Germans voted for a party. Each party was then allocated seats in the Reichstag exactly reflecting (proportional to) the number of people who had voted for it. This sounds fair, but in practice it was a disaster it resulted in dozens of tiny parties, with no party strong enough to get a majority, and, therefore, no government to get its laws passed in the Reichstag. This was a major weakness of the Republic."

- BBC History

But the Alternative Vote, whose adoption in the UK the Labour and Conservative parties colluded to block, is not the same thing, and if we are to have a second referendum on anything, this might be one to consider:

- I'd be interested to know of any simulations that might help us see the likely outcomes of an AV system. I don't think it would necessarily boost the LibDems - it depends on how they and other parties might reposition themselves and also what new parties might arise.

And after decades of Punch and Judy politics a more focused struggle for the centre might be beneficial.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Weekend Wonders: Amber

A tick grasping a dinosaur feather inside 99 million-year-old Burmese amber. (Image: Peñalver et al., 2017)

When we look at amber we wonder at the creatures often caught up inside, changeless in their warm-coloured, luminous prison. It is the fossilised resin exuded by some plants to protect themselves, and first became abundant around 150 million years ago (mya), though the oldest animals found trapped in amber are some mites dating from 230 mya. In the science fiction film "Jurassic Park" the blood-meal of mosquitoes preserved in ancient amber is used to re-breed dinosaurs. (Insects generally are far more ancient than dinos - anything from 412-479 mya.)

Amber is still being produced today, but it takes millions of years to mutate from a sticky sap, through a hardened stage called copal, to the transparent-stone-like final condition.

The very earliest amber found so far dates from around 320 million years ago (mya) and was found in 2008 in an Illinois coal deposit. This was from the Carboniferous period (359 - 299 mya), long before the the age of dinosaurs (previously said to be 220 - 65 mya - though in 2012 another dinosaur fossil was found dating to 243 mya.)

The Illinois amber discovery is something of a mystery as modern trees and flowering plants came later, in fact many millions of years after dinosaurs first appeared. Until recently, the ancestors of flowering plants that produce seeds in protective ovaries (angiosperms) were believed to date from perhaps 160 mya. But before angiosperms there were gymnosperms (plants carrying seed without covers) such as conifers and ginkos, which started in the late Carboniferous period and so it may be one of them that produced that earliest amber.

Having said that, the emergence of flowering plants and angiosperms is being redated too: last year a scientific team produced a model of the earliest flower, from 140 mya; yet in 2013 fossil plant pollen was found from 240 mya and so angiosperms may have developed in the "Early Triassic (between 252 to 247 million years ago) or even earlier."

The Natural History Museum says that dinosaurs evolved in the Triassic (252-201 mya) when all the world's land mass was clumped together (Pangea); lived though the split in Pangea that created the North Atlantic Ocean; survived the still-mysterious mass extinctions at the end of the Triassic and became far more numerous and various in the Jurassic (201-145 mya); and saw the further splitting of landmasses in the Cretaceous period, and diversification in plants and insects (including the appearance of bees).

So we're still finding out when dinosaurs first saw (and presumably ate from) modern trees and flowering plants. Scientists used to think that dinosaurs never even got to munch grass - but thanks to analysis of fossilised dinosaur poo the origin of grass has been pushed back from 55 mya to 66 mya, and some of its cousins may be much older.

There they are, these specimens, frozen in time; yet our understanding of the past keeps changing.


Friday, December 28, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Creature Comforts, by JD

The brief lull between the Christmas festivities and the Hogmanay celebration merits a slightly unusual and different musical offering!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Never Mind The EU, Can The UK Parliament Be Reformed?

In yesterday's post, Dr North referred to a 1973 Newsweek article by Milton Friedman on "barking cats"; the link he gives is now "404: not found", but another copy can be seen here:

- and one paragraph stood out, for me:

"The error of supposing that the behavior of social organisms can be shaped at will is widespread. It is the fundamental error of most so-called reformers. It explains why they so often believe that the fault lies in the man, not the “system,” that the way to solve problems is to “throw the rascals out” and put well-meaning people in charge. It explains why their reforms, when ostensibly achieved, so often go astray."

The phrase "throw the rascals out" is often used in connection with the British electoral system, compared favourably with the EU where the electorate cannot dismiss a bad or incompetent Commission.

But does Friedman throw light on a problem we have with the UK Parliament, too?

When the overwhelming majority of MPs are Remainers, most of whom representing constituencies that voted clearly for Leave; and when many of those MPs in their several political parties are doing their best to oppose and subvert the results of a referendum which they repeatedly assured us would be decisive; and when they are visibly upset and angry if reprimanded by impertinent members of Question Time audiences who seem to think that this is a democracy; then should we adapt Mrs Thatcher's judgment* and say:

"The British Parliamentary system as a whole is fundamentally unreformable"?

For if their subversion (and the complex public relations assault they are using to scare, distract and confuse the voters) succeeds, they will call into question the legitimacy of their own power. This is not merely theoretical quibbling. To quote the Scottish play:

"Thoughts speculative their unsure hopes relate,
But certain issue strokes must arbitrate."

Even if it manages to put down revolt - and Government has such powerful tools these days - the relations between rulers and ruled will be deeply tainted.

This is now about more than the EU.

*"Statecraft" (2003), p. 321 - "Europe" in the original, not "The British Parliamentary system"

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Cure!

Repeat as required:

                                                                                                             Sackerson, 26.12.2018

Resisting our own creations

"In my broader study of the EU, two apparently unrelated tracts were of huge value to me. The first is one I have used many times, the Milton Friedman article on "barking cats", and the second is the study of the Tennessee Valley Authority by Philip Selznick, which led to the concept of "self-maintenance", the idea that institutions would always act in their own self-interests, even if this meant acting against the reasons for which they were established."

- Dr Richard North (

And this is a problem for reification generally.

Once a human function - educating the young, caring for the sick, supporting the weaker and less fortunate - has been turned into an organisation, the thing has a life of its own and a desire to survive. It is a multicellular organism, composed of individual humans who each have their incomes and career prospects to consider. Attempts to steer it back onto its proper course are seen as threats, and can be opposed with the wealth and power of a great collective enterprise.

This is why liberty matters. In Britain, though not in many other countries, the citizen can teach his own children, and manage many legal aspects of his affairs without a solicitor, even representing himself in a court of law if he so wishes. The State may not like it, but it has to justify itself to the common man and keep its own behaviour within bounds, so long as judges maintain their independence.

That is the little flame that must be kept alight. Even if we ourselves may be cells in the body of the monster.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Wiggia's Winter Warning

A road safety message..............

A very Merry Christmas to all our readers, may you enjoy the fruits of your labours whether it be good food, good company, the best of wines and everything you have wished over the festive season, but just one word of warning whatever else you do , do NOT drink and drive......................

Sackerson adds:

... and watch for ice...

Goldman Sachs: Can You Spare A Squid?

They've started with the radio adverts. You can open an online savings account with as little as £1.

"Marcus" (GS was founded by Marcus Goldman in 1869) was launched in September 2018 and will take deposits up to a maximum £250,000, paying 1.5% p.a.

With British bank accounts, deposits are protected up to no more than £85,000 per person (per financial institution). This matters, as a legal case in 1848 established that money left with a bank is not held in trust for the customer, who is merely a creditor (and not the most senior) with a claim on the bank's assets should it fail.

In fact even that £85,000 (€100,000) is an arbitrary figure not an absolute guarantee; it was reduced to £75,000 in January 2015 and re-raised in January 2017 to the fanfare of "people have more financial protection for their deposits from today." Potentially, you could end up with merely a slice of the equity of a shrunk and wobbly bank.

Goldman Sachs' new-found enthusiasm for curating the cash of the "little people who pay taxes" may or may not be connected to the 1MDB scandal that has led to multibillion-dollar claims on behalf of Abu Dhabi and Malaysia. So the pennies of the poor man's savings may help clear the blockage in the vampire squid's blood funnel.

The fraud allegations involve the former Prime Minister of Malaysia (Najib Razak) and a Malay businessman called Jho Low. Singapore is extending its criminal investigation to GS, but please don't worry about the bank execs: for people at their level, the very worst outcome is a spell improving their golf handicaps in a five-star open prison. No bunking with Bubba in a 10 x 8 for them.

You may remember the MP who, some years ago, proposed the introduction of completely safe deposit accounts - ones where the bank is only the custodian of your cash and must keep it safe for you: Douglas Carswell, 2010. (He tried again in 2016, as a tabled amendment to the Bank Of England Bill.) Even if he had succeeded, you would only be entitled to your money back - not necessarily its purchasing power.

How can you store value in a world of made-up money, inflated values, fairy guarantees and swindling? When you know, do please tell me.


Bonus track - Matt Taibbi's famous 2010 article on GS in "Rolling Stone" magazine:

Friday, December 21, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Christmas (Part 2), by JD

As with last week, more music you may not have heard anywhere else.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Does The Welfare State Kill?

Scrooge would probably have welcomed the notion that charitable generosity is misguided. But in the mouse experiment described here, it wasn't because of overpopulation:

"Great care was taken to ensure the mice were taken care of, food and water was unlimited allowing mice to eat or drink whenever they pleased and there was always space and clean bedding available so females could rear young in peace and safety.

"Despite this, Calhoun noticed that after day 315 of the experiment, things started to go wrong. First of all there was a noticeable drop in population growth. While initially the population of mouse heaven had doubled every 55 days, after day 315 it doubled, according to Calhoun’s notes, approximately every 145 days. This made little sense as there was still at this time ample space to house an additional 3000 mice.

"In addition to a drop in population growth, Calhoun also noticed an abrupt change in behaviour in both males and females. Social bonds effectively broke down and male mice, without a reason to defend their territory or food source (since both were plentiful) became dejected, forming cliques that randomly attacked one another for seemingly no reason. Females similarly began abandoning young or even attacking them and slowly but surely, both males and females simply stopped breeding...

"... what’s often lost in Calhoun’s work is what came after, in which he continued to research and tweak environmental variables to try to find ways to keep the mice from going down the extinction path even as the population density grew. And, in fact, he had some success at this, for instance in one case via simply encouraging creativity in certain mice by various means. Giving them a sort of purpose here actually worked, with the “creative” mice continuing to thrive well beyond what would have otherwise been expected from the previous experiments."


Bell¿ngcat: ¿White Knight Or Trojan Horse?

British web investigators "Bellingcat" have published a review of the controversy surrounding the "White Helmets" organisation that claims to be a nonaligned charity helping victims in the Middle East, but which some say is a group of closet IS fellow-travellers:

Most of us, I suppose, are looking for sources of reliable information on contentious issues. Unfortunately, it is just such trusted sources that are a tempting target for those who wish to spread disinformation...

Alternatively, if they resist such hijacking, they are to be attacked:

"In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government.”

- John Pilger, as quoted on Eva Bartlett's website:

The "hidden hands" of the spooks can hardly lose, for when enough confusing fog has been raised the average person will be inclined to give up and passively accept the way of the world.

Now let us watch how the Great Powers start a war in, oh, maybe the Ukraine.

No wonder so many feel helpless, pray for a light in the void, and that Good will triumph.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

CHRISTMAS: All Lit Up, by Wiggia

The annual ritual of decorating the house inside and out has reached a state whereby people start to question ‘has this really got anything to do with Christmas?’ in a religious sense: very little items that started out as symbolic have developed into full-on festive fun ! And if you don’t agree with that, fine, but it is what it is. The likelihood of the years rolling back to a more contemplative time is long gone, rightly or wrongly.

This rather serious preamble is because I have dived into the decorating meme with abandon this year. There are reasons, none good, but the purchase of a new Christmas tree and new lights left me with the old lights plus two older strings with nowhere to put them.

The decorated Christmas tree goes back to Victorian times in its present form so we know who to blame for that item and of course when we were kids hours spent linking and licking paper chains was as near as we got to more colourful decorations.

But things have moved on a pace: my recent visit to the garden centre for the new tree and lights showed by how much.

It is easy (!) to get drawn in to the whole over-the top-decorating thing when presented with such choice. No longer a few tasteful items over the mantelpiece, a wreath on the door and the tree with the presents underneath on Christmas morning; this is no longer anywhere near enough.

The lighting is the most obvious big advancement in decorations. LED lights have put paid to that dusty string produced from under the stairs each year that you then spent several days trying to find the dud bulb that stopped it all working or the loose bulb that made everything flicker and eventually sent you mad and you binned the lot. Today's fail-safe lights mean we now have endless variations all of which are "put up and go."

But the garden centre showed a lot more than strings of lights. We now have laser displays: you can turn the front of your house into a permanently snowing tableau or a moving Father Christmas on a reindeer sledge going endlessly from left to right and giving you a migraine. Giant blow-up Santas and complete scenes of the Nativity filled one corner of the display area, the biggest nine feet high, all lit internally for the pleasure of passing motorists and others, and to top it all you can assemble a crib and have a menagerie of animatronics all moving. There is no longer an end to it or what you can spend - which is the point after all, none of the latter comes cheap.

Enough of this doom mongering. What to do with the excess light strings, 2000 bulbs in total? A good question. My solution or proposal was to use the branches of the cedar tree at our entrance that traverse the drive as a support for the lights and after tying in the ends of the branches on the other side of the drive, thereby creating an arch weave, the lights in the branches would create a hopeful appearance, not unlike the entrance to a grotto !

Only one problem to accomplishing this: me. Thirty, even twenty years ago it would not have been a problem, but now... I laid the supply cable, I placed the waterproof connection box at the ready and then unravelled the light strands, put my ladders in place and climbed up to start the process.

An hour later it became evident that getting up between the branches was not on. Approaching from the ground and not the trunk was also fraught, as there was nowhere to place the ladders and secure them. So after another hour I climbed down and gave up, before I had an accident and hung myself and lit up all at the same time.

This didn’t go down too well with No. 1 as the prospect of a grotto had ingrained itself on her mind and my safe alternative to light up the ten-foot-high shrubbery in front of the house (the house is elevated) was met with a distinctly muted response. I got the impression me hanging and lit up would have been the preferred option. Nonetheless less after an hour or so of continual re-jigging the lights' positions it looked half decent and it got a grudging thumbs up.

Having made a rather splendid job of decorating the tree No. 1 has started to get critical of neighbouring properties. The stretch we are on does look a bit like a scene from the film "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" with me taking on the role of the hapless Clark Griswold (played by Chevy Chase) when he did the initial lighting-up; I fear for the national grid when everyone turns the lights on.

No, it is not that stretch of the road which comes in for  opprobrium, no: it is those with a feeble ten-year-old wreath on the door, or a tatty small tree with the minimum decorations. These, she considers, are not pulling their weight in the scheme of things: “If you are going to decorate, do it properly or don’t bother at all!” I can only nod weakly in agreement; the decoration police have spoken.

As of last night, the occupant of Number 42 has  elevated himself from those that do not bother by putting a large illuminated reindeer in his porch; not so many to go now !

The house itself is only part of the total look. Those who care (*cough*) go the whole way with the table decs which must include centre piece, sprigs of holly by the dining utensils, candles (how could I forget the candles? the bigger the better), crackers, and Christmas-themed serviettes - this year we have penguins! Plus if you still feel festive after all this, a Santa hat or similar to wear during the festivities - a must if children are present or even when they are not.

And before anyone comments, taste has absolutely nothing, nothing at all to do with any of this.

I can hear the cries from the more traditional elements saying this has absolutely nothing to do with what Christmas is all about. Quite right too, but it is not going to be me who broaches that angle with No. 1,  oh no no no... I have no desire to end up like Clark Griswold.

Weekend Wonders: Wired Watery World - Submarine Cable Map

Friday, December 14, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Christmas (Part 1)

A seasonal selection of music which you are unlikely to hear anywhere else. Some of these might upset the Puritans, the original ones with the silly hats as well as the newer version with the silly sensibilities but all videos are joyful and reflect, one way or another, the spirit of the season.

Next week's part 2 will have more music both sacred and profane including one in particular which is not particularly Christmassy but the newer puritans will love(?) it!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Is Drugs Liberalisation Racist?

In the early 2000s, a policeman came to talk about drugs to the care staff at a large children's home. He had a ponytail. He showed a variety of drug simulacra, named them and explained their effects.

His manner suggested an unspoken complicity with the carers - among whom racial minorities were well-represented - on the subject of the use of these chemicals. Until someone told him that black people suspected that the liberal attitude to drugs was a strategy to keep their kind down.

The official information suggests that the picture is more complex - that educational underachievement may have more to do with child poverty - see Figure 14 (p.49) here, where eligibility for Free School Meals (FSM) correlates with lower academic scores.

However it also shows that when adjusted for socio-economic status (SES), "all ethnic minority groups achieve at least as well and frequently substantially better than the White British students, with the single exception of middle and high SES Black Caribbean boys" (ibid., Figure 17.)

So there seems to be more than simply poverty - or simply drugs, though the poor are more likely to take them - holding back that last group. Perhaps, then, there should be more specific affirmative action to boost the ambition and achievements of Black Caribbean boys.

But for the poor generally, maybe it would help them to stop being cool about drugs and light-touch policing in deprived areas. When people are in the pit they turn for comfort to things that keep them in it. Our government has spent a long time liberalising the use of alcohol and gambling - that is to say, giving powerful commercial interests free rein to exploit the disadvantaged. Drugs seem to be next.

Is that kind of laissez-faire a form of what Marcuse called "repressive tolerance"?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

WINE: It’s That Time of the Year Again, by Wiggia

Bit late with my annual wine appraisal, but not too late for those who still need to stock up for the holiday period.

So what has been happening in the world of wine this year? Champagne and sparkling wine is still on the up, Sauvignon Blanc is still the number one white wine - though Chardonnay is having a revival (not that it went away) - and in reds all the major grapes are toe-to-toe in the popularity stakes.

In detail:

I will start with the fortified wines as for many people Christmas is the only time these are purchased. The supermarkets have some very good bottles on their shelves in this category. Port: the single quinta bottles from Grahams and Warres that many retail outlets stock and often on offer are an amazing bargain, Tesco recently had the Grahams for £20 ! Grahams again have both the 10  and 20 year Tawny ports available this year and both are great examples of their style and affordable, and Morrisons ruby port at £7 is ridiculously cheap for such quality, don’t confuse this one with what grandma used to drink.

There is a whole new display in some supermarkets - especially Waitrose - of sweet wines with very good Sauternes, Marsalas, Vin Santo, Australian stickies (Muscats Semillons etc) on the shelves. Well worth a dip into if you would like a change.

Sherry has been going through a difficult time with the bulk sherry market collapsing but this has meant many better sherries being offered and some great cheaper ones. At the lower end of the price range two finos stand out: the own label versions from Waitrose and in many people's opinion an even better one from Morrisons. All the other Waitrose sherries are good and they carry some very good rarer ones like Palo Cortados plus fino en ramas, and some superb Olorosos and Amontillados from the likes of Lustau and  Gonzalez Byass. Waitrose are on their own in the supermarket stakes for sherry choice .

With the huge increase in sales of Champagne and sparkling wines almost everyone has jumped on the band wagon. Champagne is still the go-to choice for those who like the bubbly stuff yet it is no longer clear cut as to who supplies the best value in this category. If it is price that dictates, Cava and Prosecco rule the roost; some examples of both that will not break the bank but will give value for money include:

  • Conegliano - from Sainsburys
  • Lot Folletto D’oro DOCG - Aldi (the DOCG on the label denotes a better growing area, for Cava)
  • Spumante Conegliano - Lidl
  • Cordorniu 1872 vintage Cava  - Waitrose
  • M&S Prestige Cava
  • Freixentet Cordon Negro

Just some of the better ones, but beware: there are some dire versions in those two regions!

A good alternative to both and Champagne are the Cremants from the Loire and the Jura:

  • Lidl's incredible value Cremant de Bourgogne
  • Tesco's reliable Blanquette de Limoux
  • Waitrose: Cuvee Royale Brut Cremant de Limoux

Champagne itself has got some serious competition now from English sparkling wines. All of the English producers are making compelling wines to match and even surpass their Champagne equivalents - sparklers from Nyetimber, Hush Heath, Gusborne, Camel Valley, Henners, Ridgeview, Digby Fine English. All are top wines and under £30. For me I would forsake Champagne unless you have the funds for their top cuvees and go for the English sparklers; again the best choice is at Waitrose.

White grapes that we rarely see and new countries starting to appear here mean a wider choice to choose from. Gruner Veltliner is appearing more and more, this Austrian speciality has a lot of appeal to some people others not so much but worth a try for something a bit different.
For lighter fresher whites outside of sauvignon blanc there are a lot of the Italian bottles on the shelves with grapes like Falanghina , Pecorino, Grechetto with some improved Soaves at last appearing. Verdicchio which should be on the list still only has poor samples in the major retailers so don’t bother unless you go to a specialist wine merchant. Pinot Grigio is still top of the pops but the majority is still industrial quality rubbish - shame, as the better brands are very good: the Alsace version called Pinot Gris is a much better bet and many now stock some versions of this wine that goes so well with food.

Riesling is still the bridesmaid in popular sales, nearly all the best ones are with specialists, but there are Chilean and NZ and Australian versions and many others appearing all the time, Australian ones from the Clare Valley are very dependable, such as any of the Grosset range and Jim Barrys Lodge Hill plus from WA any of the Frankland Estates versions, also from Chile Cono Sur is dependable and one or two South African Rieslings are very good, the ones above are readily for sale.
Chardonnay has returned, it never went away but style wise it has changed,  not so much wood in evidence, lighter fresher styles are now the go to styles though some heavier ones are good regardless of the oak, it is a matter of balance, in your supermarkets look for these as good examples, there are many more:

  • Sainsburys Maconnais Macon-Village
  • Sainsburys Taste the Difference Limoux Chardonnay
  • Waitrose  Fog Head Reserve Chardonnay from California
  • Majestic  Marisco The Kings Legacy Chardonnay NZ
  • Co-op have a bargain in their Truly Irresistable Chablis

A couple of other grapes worth trying:

  • M&S  Barrosa Valley Maranga Dam Rousanne
  • Sainsburys  Stellenrust Chenin Blanc-  the cheaper version (there are two from this producer) is the better value from SA

And so to the current darling of the white wine world Sauvignon Blanc, there are hundreds so here is just a small sample of the many good cheaper ones,.NZ dominates this grape now but France and the Loire still provide a different and traditional take on the grape that many prefer.

  • If you can still find this one at Morrisons buy Mastercraft Sauvignon Blanc this is a joint venture between the producer and Morrisons and is another absolute bargain.
  • Cono Sur reserve SB from Chile widely available
  • Tescos new own label North Row SB
  • The Ned on sale everywhere and universally liked
  • Majestic have under their Definition label Sancerre Loire
  • And if you want to splash out Greywacke is just about top of the heap, great wine and a better bet at less price than Cloudy Bay that is now sold everywhere.

Rosés have become very popular, not my cup of tea but that aside many get very good reviews these days. However I am not going to suggest any here as Christmas is not the place for these wines though there is no reason why not, and my sampling of them is very limited. so I pass.

With reds as Arthur Daley said “the world is your lobster” and it is, with seemingly all corners of the globe making great wines from different grapes. I am not going to go through all the varieties separately you will have dozed off before the end if I did that but what I will do is give an extended list below of the many great value reds I have drunk this year and are good to go for the festive season. Really at Christmas I expect most people would want to push the boat out a bit more, there's no Chateau Lafite, here just decent wines that are relatively affordable and not only taste good but will not disgrace any table.

Argentina has come along way in a short time as has all of South America so I will start with some Malbecs and Malbec blends from there.

  • Viñalba, Reservado De La Familia Malbec
  • Marks & Spencer, The Party Malbec
  • Santa Julia, Reserve Malbec-Cbernet Franc
  • Viñalba, Malbec & Touriga Nacional Reserve
  • Mendel Selection Malbec at Majestic
  • And any of Catena Malbecs one of the best producers and very reliable, plus anything by Zuccardi and most of Susanna Balbos Malbecs.

Chile is more diverse than Argentina at the moment. Its signature grape Carménère is still a bit thin on the ground and variable in quality and style.

Santa Ritas Meddala Real Carménère is a very good buy and if you can find the Gran Reserva even better:

  • Errazuriz Estate Series Pinot Noir - Majestic
  • De Martino single vineyard Alto de Piedras Carménère - Waitrose
  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - Sainsburys and elsewhere
  • Koyle Royale Syrah - Morrisons
  • Montes Single Vineyard Merlot - Majestic

Down Under still supplies some great wines at fair prices despite the big brands taking the lion's share of the shelf space:

  • Rolf Binder Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot - Waitrose, Co-op (some stores)
  • Kilikanoon Grenache Shiraz Mataro - Waitrose
  • The Hedonist Shiraz - various outlets
  • d’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz - various outlets
  • Two Hands Angels Share Shiraz - Majestic
  • Burra Brook Cabernet Sauvignon - M&S; great value wine
  • Asda Extra Special Yarra Valley Pinot Noir - another good value wine

From New Zealand, mainly Pinot Noir which has become almost its second home. One thing I have to tell about NZ  Pinot is that the majority of the cheaper have better alternatives elsewhere. They lack ripe fruit, so be prepared to pay around £20 for anything decent.

  • Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir - Waitrose
  • Dog Point Pinot Noir - Majestic
  • Saint Clare Pioneer Block Pinot Noir - Majestic

South Africa is on a bit of a renaissance. A lot of very decent wines are coming from there now instead of those made in cooperatives:

  • Stellenrust Old Vines Cinsault - Waitrose
  • Rustenberg Peter Barlow - Waitrose
  • Fairview Pinotage - Waitrose
  • Helderberg Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - M&S

The USA gets a pass simply because there is so little for sale. Most is purchased and drunk in the USA and what does make it here tends to be pricey. A shame as there are some magnificent wines being made there.

Back in Europe the choice is getting wider with eastern European countries coming on-stream at last and the likes of Greece making some cracking wines and Portugal going from strength to strength. The Greek wines are worth a punt as I haven’t had a dud yet.

Portugal has quite a few reds of note at the moment and most are very good value. Two from Waitrose:

  • Esporao Reserva
  • Douro Valley Reserva Quinta da Rosa

The best selection is at the Wine Society but the society is a co-op and you have to pay to join before you can order. If you really drink wine they are well worth joining, it’s £40 but you get back £20 with your first order.

Spain, and one thinks of Rioja: plenty of poor ones around but plenty of good ones as well at all prices, other regions also supply top class bottles:

  • The Best Marques De Los Rios Rioja Gran Reserva - Morrisons good value
  • Rioja Crianza Marques de Caceres - Majestic; the reserva from the same people is equally good.
  • Rioja Reserva Vina Ardanza La Rioja Alta - Majestic and elsewhere
  • Rioja Reserva Imperial CVNE - Majestic and others

For Rioja look out for the wines of Muga, Roda, Telmo Rodriguez, and Vina Tondonia who have a large traditional style range and are very well thought of.

The wines from other regions include Ribera del Douro’s big red wines if you like that style and some very good Grenache/Garnacha from old vines. Lighter wines include those from Monastrell -these have proven very reliable and are extremely good value.

Italy has more grape varieties than anywhere else though many are rarely seen, but the great regions of Tuscany and Barolo produce wines up with the best of them and with prices to match.

Barolo is particularly difficult to find anything at a reasonable price but there are a few, though in general you have to know your way around in this area. Some of the satellite areas using the same Nebbiolo grape are more reasonable.

Waitrose have one at around the £20 mark: Terra da Vino Barolo Reserva  DOCG. It is a gold medal winner.

Otherwise look out for wines from the Lange region or lesser Barbarescos. This is a difficult area for value with all the better ones starting at around £40 and going north.

Tuscany is easier but again not cheap for the Super Tuscans or the top Brunellos or even the better Chiantis.

Cecchi Sagrato Chianti Reserva is fairly inexpensive and a good reliable winery, do not buy the difficult 2014 vintage - Waitrose

Also at Waitrose, they did win supermarket of the year for wine and it shows:

  • Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico and
  • Villa Antinori
  • M&S have Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico reserva
  • At Morrisons an old favorite, Nipozzano Chianti Rufina reserva

For cheaper Italian reds go south, there are some very good Negroamaros and Nero d’Avolas that are rich and plummy from Puglia and Sicily that will not make a hole in your pocket.

France considers itself to be the leading light in the world of wine with some justification despite unloading millions of bottles of plonk on us in the past, but times have changed and many of the regions that made that awful stuff now make first class wines, so the choice is huge.
Again unless you have deep pockets the best of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone will be out of reach but there are affordable wines in all three that are also value for money, a few below.

Waitrose, again, have several good value Bordeaux reds:

  • Chateau du Gazin Canon Fronsac
  • Chateau Le Fleur Peyrabon Cru Bourgeois
  • Moulin de Duhart
  • Chateau Lalande d’Auvion Cru Bourgeois 2015  ***
  • Deyrim Valentin 2015  ***

- they did have more in this category but have sold out.

Sainsburys - Cambon la Pelouse

Lidl are worth a look for these wines in limited numbers, they often have Bordeaux at knock out prices so it is worth a look for the likes of Marques de Terme ***

I will not even attempt to suggest Burgundy. Nearly all is overpriced  and the better ones stratospheric in price. You can find decent versions but you would have to go to independent wine outlets.
The Rhone is a different matter, north and south of the region provides good robust and silky reds at all price points.

  • Sainsburys have a very good Chateauneuf de Pape in Perrins Les Sinards 2016
  • Sainsburys also have a decent Crozes Hermitage Caves de Tain
  • Guigals Cotes du Rhone is widely available and consistently good.
  • Waitrose have Astralabe Chene Bleu VDP Vaucluse this is the £20 version.
  • Jean- Luc Colombo Les Mejeans Cornas - Waitrose
  • The Co-op have a very good value Cotes du Rhone: La Grange St Martin, made by Perrin for them.

Also worth seeking out: Gigondas Vacqueras reds. Again, most offer good value for deep hearty reds.

Sainsburys have a decent Sancerre Red. You don't see many of these, this one is worth a try if a lighter style is required.

This is but a fraction of wines available but I have been restricted to supermarkets and there is a lot more online and in the independent outlets, if you know a bit about wine it is worth searching out that way.

Never be frightened to try something different, you may well have a pleasant surprise.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 07, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Slim Gaillard, by JD

This week's star is Slim Gaillard and in the three short interviews with George Melly included here he plays and reminisces about his music and about other artists he has known.

A short biography is here for more information-

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Globalism Is Not Centrist

Former PM Tony Blair's approach to politics used the concept of "triangulation" - appearing to be not-Left, not-Right but a just-perfect Goldilocks moderate compromise.

Writing in The Conservative Woman, Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack says "In the protests throughout France we see symptoms which have appeared elsewhere in Europe of the crumbling of the globalist centre."

The word "centre" is (unintentionally, in this case) misleading. Between those who govern and those who are governed, there is no left and right. Instead it is up and down: those up there, us down here.

A triangle is two-dimensional. Here is the centre:

Original by MartinThoma - Own work, CC BY 3.0
adapted by Sackerson

But human nature being what it is, power and money have a tendency, not to "centralise" but to concentrate - at the top:

In the various modern versions of what is called democracy, the rationale for concentrating so much power in the apex is that somehow our interests are represented by it. Our problem is that we are daily less and less convinced of the truth of this argument.

Now it's becoming their problem, too.


Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Trump the Incendiary - Irrational Political Satire 2

"Private Eye" issue 1484, 13 Dec 2018 (p. 29)

There is something about Trump that makes otherwise intelligent, well-educated and well-informed people lose their reason. When they're not trying to make you lose yours, as I showed a few days ago.

Above are two more examples.

Let's start with the cartoon. Here is Trump, with that darkened face (it would be orange if in colour) represented as George Washington in the famous anecdote in which GW freely confessed his wrongdoing to his father. So, translated into words, is this image telling us that President Trump was personally responsible for the fires in California? Or that forest management would mean cutting down the trees?

And then, when the satirists decide to use words, as in the skit atop this strange sketch, they blether about Twitter, climate change, MAGA, even inventing criticism by Trump of the firefighters tackling the blaze - just, lunacy.

It's a visceral thing, not a rational matter. This video gives a plausible explanation for "liberal" intellectuals' loss of self-control at the sight and sound of the President (htp: A K Haart):

What actually happened?

Trump visited California because of the terrible blazes there that have claimed dozens of victims, with hundreds of other people still not accounted for.

Now the usual approach of political leaders is simply to empathise on our behalf - remember President Clinton's "I feel your pain"? (he did say it), announce financial and other support in general terms, and so on. It's sort of performing a Father Of The Nation or priestly role. And because we are mostly emotional, it works: Clinton's "emotional intelligence" may have helped him gain the Presidency, denying Bush Senior his second term in office.

But Trump is a businessman, so he blundered straight on into practical suggestion, looking at what could be done to prevent a recurrence. Clearing the forest floor, for example.

And that was a gift for those who will seize on anything at all to bury Trump in negatives. Suggest thinning out the woodland and you are accused of grabbing an opportunity to increase logging. Or an expert "fire scientist" - or biology professor - says that's not the issue. And because Trump speaks as he thinks, he will make verbal stumbles and that's even better - so "raking" became the big joke.

No wonder professional politicians practise being bland and vague. Probably they would have taken the usual tack in cases like this - calling for some lengthy investigation that would cause the eyes of the news media to glaze over.

But eventually, amid the spluttering, there came some more nuanced reconsideration of the problem and possible solutions, e.g. the BBC's "California wildfires: Is Trump right when he blames forest managers?"

As so often, when the media flak has died down we find that Trump has, in his ham-fisted way, opened an agenda for discussion. Among other things, the BBC's article implies that there is a need for better coordination between the various large landowners of California's forests, and quotes an expert who agrees that some detritus needs to be removed to reduce fire hazard.

Trump referenced Finland in his comments, but we might also learn from Portugal.

Last year, Portugal saw horrendous fires in the forests in its central region, with over 60 fatalities, some caught in the flashover as they took the wrong road in their attempt to drive out of danger.

This is a perennial problem in Portugal, much of which which is mountainous and covered with oily, fast-burning coniferous trees. A standard part of the land management is to clear the woodland floor.

If you walk along the dusty tracks through the forest, you will see rags and empty plastic milk bottles hanging from branches: these indicate the boundaries of individually-owned plots of land, which can be quite small, in traditional rural areas. You can help yourself to branches and cones that have fallen onto the road, but everything off the track is private.

The owners are responsible for regular clearance of their patch. It's their duty to the community.

But the situation is becoming difficult as the pattern of land ownership and settlement changes. In Portugal, if you wish to sell your house, you must show that you have the legal agreement of the entire family, even those members living abroad (and some two million of working age have emigrated to look for employment.) As the Portuguese have risen out of relative poverty, what they have been doing is to buy or build new houses elsewhere and simply abandon the old ones. There are many houses and plots of land that lie untended and it's often not clear who they belong to. So, who is going to clear their forest patch for them?

There's a 2018 English-language study of the complex Portuguese wildfire management issues here.

President Trump can often seem clumsy and crass, but our respect for some media commentators and parodists diminishes when we see how unthinking their responses to him can be.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

SPORTS NEWS: Poor Boca, Rich River, by JD

The Copa Libertadores is South America's version of Europe's Champion's League, previously known as the European Cup.

For the first time in its 58 year history the final would be contested by River Plate and Boca Juniors, both of Buenos Aires and with a long history of sometimes bitter rivalry.

It could be compared to the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic in the bad old days. (As an aside, you will notice the two Argentine teams have English names, Boca is the name of the port district of Buenos Aires, but that is another story.)

The final is a two leg affair and the first leg in Boca's La Bombonera stadium finished in a 2-2 draw. The second leg was due to be played in River's Estadio Monumental on 24th November. But.... as the Boca team bus was nearing the stadium it was attacked by the River Plate hooligans (all clubs suffer from a lunatic fringe among the fans unfortunately).

The bus was badly damaged and one or two players had to be taken to hospital. Not a good advert for the game or for football.  The game was postponed postponed until the following day but Boca objected saying that some of their players would need more time to recover so it was postponed again. That's the background story and so far, so good or bad depending on how you see it.

There followed much consultation among the football authorities and then Conmebol, the South American football federation said that for security reasons the game would be played in another country. At first it was thought that one of the other members of the federation would host the game with Paraguay and Brasil rumoured to be favourites. Then there were tales of it moving to Miami but it was Qatar who made a firm offer of $13 million to stage the game. That was unacceptable as Qatar is the main sponsor of Boca; they have Qatar on their shirts. Finally it was decided to hold the second leg in Spain in Real Madrid's Estadio Bernabeu to be played on 9th December. Details of ticket allocations were even announced and much publicity ensued.

But the River Plate chairman lodged an official complaint in writing. (1) Reading the letter I was highly amused by paragraph 'f' in which the River Presidente suggested that the World leaders gathered in Argentina for the G20 summit should be invited to the game. "How could they refuse?" How indeed!

So it is now all in limbo and I have heard that Boca are also refusing to play the game in Madrid although I have yet to see anything in writing from Boca.

However, Alejandro Dominguez the Presidente of Conmebol, said on Saturday that the decision was 'irreversible' and that was that. (2) (Sorry but no English version of the story) As we are all aware, bureaucrats know best! At the time of writing the situation is unresolved so who knows what will happen next because all sides seem to be entrenched in their views. I see a battle of egos looming!

This is just the latest episode in the degeneration of sport into pantomime. It is slowly being turned into a travelling circus with games being played away from traditional venues and in the location of the highest bidder. We have already seen NFL games played at Wembley (and ruining the turf in the process) Spain's La Liga recently signed a deal with an American media company to play 15 games per season in the USA. This is being resisted by Spain's players, the fans and their Football Federation.

The inevitable result of all this greed for money, and that is what is behind this travelling circus mentality, will be to drive the fans away. I used to go to football but now I can't afford it, among other things. Friends of mine in Glasgow no longer go to Ibrox to see Rangers, they prefer to watch their local park team. The last game I went to was Real Madrid v Valencia in January 2004 and it was £480 for six of us; £80 per seat. Greed will kill the game and the P T Barnums of this world will move onto something else from which they can suck out the life and transfer the money into their grubby hands: think of the Yahoos in Gulliver's Travels and you will understand.


Monday, December 03, 2018

Fact Check: Macron's Fuel Duty Advancing His "Progressive Climate Change Agenda"?

The Yellow Jackets in France are protesting a 23% y-o-y increase in diesel fuel duty, according to Breitbart. Supposedly this is an element of President Macron's campaign to fight climate change.

France is a pygmy in the CO2 emission stakes - 19th in this list of countries (21st if you count international shipping and aviation). The elephant in the room is...

In fact, according to the same source, and as with the UK and Italy, France's emissions are less than half of Germany's.

But giant China is accelerating. Back in May this year the FT was saying that her emissions were set for "the fastest growth in 7 years", and it seems that in the first quarter of 2018 they were already up 4% on the same period in 2017.

In short, come off it!


Yes We Can: Climate Change, Brexit and Can-Do, by JD

Two brands of lunacy -

1. What could possibly go wrong?

2. On Brexit, why are the politicians so scared of 'no deal' why can they not walk away? If we had a Trump over here that is exactly what he would have done. I think the answer is that our politicians genuinely have no idea about the realities of commerce, about business but also they have no confidence in the British people's ability to resove problems or to come up with imaginative solutions, despite all the evidence. A recent example was Danny Boyle speaking on a TV programme about his 2012 Olympic show. He said they spent ages trying to get the lighting right and properly sequenced. All of his set designers and experts were stumped by it but when the lighting riggers and electricians worked it out and did it for him he was amazed: 'But they are just ignorant peasants with no education' - that was not what he said but it was clearly in his mind because he did not have the creative imagination to solve problems and they did. (I have seen that countless times with architects)

Any problems with 'climate change' or caused by Brexit can and will be overcome by the remnants of our industrial heritage and our make-do-and-mend approach. Unfortunately such things have been educated out of us over recent years. I have mentioned that before in a post but can't remember which one :)

Macron's Radical Centrism: When Triangulation Goes Wrong

"When thousands of masked protestors fought running battles with police in Paris on Saturday, torching cars and starting fires on some of Paris’s most expensive streets, the government called them extreme-right and far-left “professional rioters” who had infiltrated the peaceful protests by gilets jaunes." (1)

We're back with Tony Blair and his pretence that he was "somewhere in the middle":

"One of Tony Blair’s greatest political skills was what he called “triangulation”. The idea is to take up a position that seems equidistant between Left and Right, thus winning a majority and perplexing political opponents." (2)

Emmanuel Macron must be a truly radical centrist if he manages to get the whole population from left to right against him.

Politics is not one-dimensional. As l'Empereur himself observes: "A station, it is a place where one meets people who succeed and people who are nothing." (3)

The Triangle, Macron Edition:

Sackerson 03.12.2018


Sunday, December 02, 2018

Political Cartoons: If Only They Could Talk

If words fail, if you don't have facts and logic on your side, draw a picture.

Here's a nice example, from The Guardian as it happens, but similar treatments can be found elsewhere. It plays on the indignation felt by some - but skilfully encouraged among many more, by mainstream and social media propagandists - at President Trump's cancellation of his planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, 50 miles out of Paris:

If only the cartoon could use words to speak to you...

"Just look at him! Come on, you guys, Trump! Need I say more? Just look at his flabby orange face, his petulant expression, the ridiculous hair! (Don't I show all this so well! The man who drew me is an artist, no question!)

"Quite obviously he intended to insult and alienate millions of American voters by showing how little he cares for - whoever the hell it was. In France or Belgium? Don't ask me, I'm not a damn geeky historian and the place and victims aren't the point!

"The point is - Trump! And all because a little drop of rain might spoil his precious hairdo!

"Let's contrast him with Frau Merkel. She might be old, ugly and mad, with a mixing-bowl haircut, but she knows how to behave at a solemn public occasion, not like this preening chimp! I've sketched a look of disapproval on her map so you'll know just what to feel."

However, once you convert the pure emotionalism of a political cartoon into words, then the megaphone is laid down and dialogue has to begin. This is not the aim of the propagandist, who simply wishes to convince without getting into an argument - and in some cases, perhaps, is doing it not out of conviction but simply for pay.

But an argument is what he's going to get, for I've seen more than enough of this kind of nonsense about Trump, Brexit, drugs and so on. We have a young adult generation who have not put away childish things and need Skeletor to dance them into using Money Supermarket:

The flight from reason has gone on for too long. It is time to deconstruct and challenge. So, back to the obviously (to any right-thinking person) odious and contemptible Trump:

There is no room in the cartoon to explain that bad visibility meant that the helicopter flight wasn't judged safe to transport the most powerful person in the world to the cemetery. Helicopters don't glide out of trouble: British readers may remember the 30 October helicopter crash that killed Leicester City's club owner and his entourage. Those with longer memories may recall the June 1994 Mull of Kintyre crash that killed a bunch of intelligence experts coming back from Northern Ireland in thick fog.

Team Trump has also said that the alternative of driving him there was considered, but the motorcade would have disrupted Paris traffic.

And it would have taken hours to get there, do the honours and come back. The US President's time schedule is not like the ordinary person's - I've seen part of one for a previous incumbent, and the team plan to the minute.

Besides, imagine the motorcade making its way 80 kilometres into the countryside, not on home turf and not pre-checked by the Secret Service. Disruptor Trump probably has even more mortal enemies than JFK. All those hedges and grassy knolls...

Does anyone, when asked in so many words, seriously think the President would arrange an emotionally-loaded photo stunt to be seen by tens of millions of registered American voters, merely to cancel it on a whim and a flimsy excuse?

Oh, and Frau Merkel? Two days after the sober-faced mummery of the centenary Armistice ceremony she was back in the EU "Parliament" once again urging the setting up of a European "intervention force" and eventually a full-blown EU army; something recently re-aired by French President, Emannuel Macron.*

As for Macron himself (not featured in this drawing), he used the ceremony as a hook for a weird, word-twisting globalist speech in which he said patriotism was the opposite of nationalism. Humpty Dumpty might have been embarrassed if someone had replied that the French had been signally nationalistic when negotiating the Common Agricultural Policy heavily in favour of their farmers, or when developing France's independent nuclear weapons programme while the Community was trying to forge a common European defence policy.

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words - precisely because it avoids them so you can't answer back.

*A propos, see this short video by Irish MEP Luke "Ming" Flanagan, on a European Defence Association conference which was scheduled at about the same time as an EU Parliament plenary session so that MEPs were unlikely to be able to attend (and in any case, it was invitation-only.)

He went in for a short time - after difficulties in gaining entry - and was amused-shocked by the enthusiasm of a delegate "representative of civil society" there getting excited over the prospect of killer robots:


But seemingly, the satirists would rather have hypocritical gurning at the graveside of men many of whom would have thought like the last British survivor of that war, Harry Patch:

"Earlier this year, I went back to Ypres to shake the hand of Charles Kuentz, Germany's only surviving veteran from the war. It was emotional. He is 107. We've had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it's a licence to go out and murder."

So, dark clothes, sad face, dump the wreath and then on to the defence industry beanfeast.