Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Irish Backstop, and Common Sense - by JD

All of those who are arguing over where to 'draw the line' of the so-called Irish Backstop (whatever that means) should be compelled to read and re-read Spike Milligan's novel Puckoon. I say read and re-read until it enters their thick heads that the whole idea is an absurd bureaucratic fantasy!

The trailer to the film version of Puckoon contains the immortal line - "the only way to fight the stupidity of bureaucracy is with......stupidity!"


This excerpt from the book illustrate perfectly the stupidity and lack of common sense inside the bureaucratic mind:-


"When an attempt is made to bury one of the locals across the border in what had now become “British territory”, Barrington, the customs officer in charge of the Border Customs Post, has a few preconditions:

‘I presume the deceased will be staying this side permanently?’ ‘Unless someone invents a remarkable drug – yes,’ answered the priest. ‘Then,’ went on Barrington, ‘he will require the following: an Irish passport stamped with a visa, to be renewed annually for the rest of his – ‘ Barrington almost said ‘life’ – ‘stay’, he concluded.

Well, that was that. While the deceased is off having his passport photo taken it’s decided that all corpses on the Unionist side of the border be exhumed, repatriated and reinterred on Irish soil."


The events in Puckoon take place over a few weeks in 1924 when the Boundary Commission has just about agreed on where the border between Northern and Southern Ireland will lie. The only thing that stands between them and getting to the pub before closing time is “the microcephalic community of Puckoon” a fictitious village which Spike locates “[s]everal and a half metric miles North East of Sligo. When an accident destroys the surveyor’s equipment they decide to get the matter over with by all putting “one hand on the red pencil and draw[ing] a line that falls naturally and peacefully into place:”

In what was meant to be a solemn moment, all hands held the pencil and pulled slowly across the map. All was silent, the room filled with suspicion. Occasionally a gasp rent the silence as they all strained for the advantage.

‘Steady, someone’s pulling to the benefits of Ulster.’

‘Lies, all lies.’

‘Who gave that jerk?’

‘Ah! I felt that.’


Finally the pencil reached its destination. Faces broke into relieved smiles and a series of rapid unplanned handshakes ensued.


Unfortunately the border cuts right through the heart of Puckoon separating houses from outhouses, the church from its graveyard and annexing a corner of the pub where the locals crowd because the drink is thirty percent cheaper there.

Yes, I know it sounds absurd but it does happen in real life. The partition of India and Pakistan was an arbitrary line on the map which no doubt pleased those who had drawn it but the consequences were unknown numbers who died in the resulting chaos and fighting as Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs suddenly found themselves on the 'wrong' side of the new border and were obliged to uproot themselves and try to move to the 'right' side.

The madness of bureaucratic systems and yet the politicians and civil servants remain oblivious to the problems they create!

And to answer the question what is 'common sense'?



Monday, October 14, 2019

Faux: a lifestyle for many, by Wiggiatlarge

The recent faux outrage in the House Of Commons over a word, ‘humbug’ is in itself not worth talking about but the moronic MP who pursued the claim and demanded an apology is symptomatic of what has become an almost instinctive reaction to something that they believe will have a positive effect on the general population in their favour.

It took me back to thinking: when did all this start? Whenever it was it has been exacerbated by the massive spread and the use of the internet and social media, enabling the latest slights to become ‘news’ in minutes and back up comments from those who want to prosper from this nonsense to appear almost immediately.

When did it all start? Politicians have been using various forms of malfeasance since time immemorial to get their point of view across, but before the internet it had to be from a main player who had the ear of the press not the use of a smartphone which gives all and sundry access to their five minutes of fame or disgrace.

Much of it stems from the increasing use by those big players of spin doctors and advisors. A whole army of them now advise everyone on when and how they should use the media. For those people it is more a case of promoting an image, and the one that for me epitomises it perfectly was the sight of Tony Blair emerging from No 10 after the election in 2000 wearing a casual shirt, no tie and holding a mug of tea; he then crossed the road as a man of the people would, to speak to the press.
I remember watching this and saying to myself how utterly staged it all was and it was confirmed, not that it needed to be, by his never actually taking a sip of the tea, certainly whilst on air anyway, so false, so staged and so actually of the time. They have never looked back.

In ‘97 we had of course the mass outpouring of faux grief from the public themselves, proving if nothing else it wasn’t the preserve of the political class. Princess Diana's death sparked a nationwide epidemic of not wanting to be outdone in the grief stakes by tens of thousands who had never met her and knew precious little about her apart from what was seen in the tabloids. The British do State occasions well and the public were not going to let this one go without emptying the flower merchants in Amsterdam. Somehow those involved never saw the cringe side of this but everyone to their own.

The pattern was set after that. Blair exploited his man of the people profile, 'I’m an ordinary kinda guy’ and ever since the stakes for moral outrage have been set lower and lower.

Certain words and phrases go with the look that has been honed to perfection in the mirror and under the tuition of the personal PR aides. ‘Concern’ is top of the list, trotted out at the drop of the hat for every thing that veers from path of normality. It can be used in conjunction with the appropriate look for anything from too many road accidents, hurty words from a foreign power and anything else that seems appropriate. Nothing in the material sense ever follows up the concern though, even after a suitable inquiry is launched.

Inquiries themselves have proved to be nothing more than a faux response to concerns. When did anything of substance last happen to right the wrongs found after a lengthy and costly inquiry? 'Lessons have been learned': another phrase bandied about with no intention of learning anything.

What we are now seeing and which has been much promoted since the Brexit vote and Trump becoming POTUS, is an increase in faux outrage against both by those who wish to derail the two. This has reached levels of absurdity in faux statements, remarks and intent from people who in some cases one thought better of, but when it comes to retaining or regaining power all bets are off and lies upon lies are trotted out with the full knowledge of what they are. But as any marketing outfit will tell you, repeat the lie enough and many will eventually believe, so as with the constant emails and postal fliers that bombard you with anything from funeral plans to '50% off windows this month only', enough bite to make these approaches however fake worthwhile for the companies involved. The fake discounts are a classic example of marketing to the naive: we have a chain of bathroom retailers who have a permanent 50%-plus reduction on everything it has been doing it for years; many other examples exist.

Yet more worrying today is that the faux concern used by politicians and NGOs has spread to the public at large. The recent XR demos have shown a new twist to demonstrating: no longer content with being a bloody nuisance, the demonstrator has added faux emotion to his public face in an attempt to curry favour with even more vulnerable people. Anyone who saw the man crying under the car with the picture of his children in his hand, repeating 'their future is being taken away' while crying for the camera, can be in no doubt that faux emotion has reached a new level. Anyone believing that display needs a reality check.

What next, who knows? Most of these fads blow over with time, but not in this case, too many politicians and their ilk have this whole fake PR act embedded in the way they now approach the public. The Twitter feeds from the likes of two prime examples, David Lammy and Stella Creasy (picked, I might add, because they are two prime examples, not because of their party loyalties} are just fake in what they say and what they purport to support. It is amusing to read, if you can be bothered, and I have included Lammy’s now infamous “haven’t seen a policeman since we have been here picture” but worryingly they get that percentage they are after who support their inane utterances and that of course is what it is all about. So the whole thing goes full circle, faux emotions and image supported by people displaying faux loyalties to in many cases something they have no grasp of other than a misguided fake belonging to a false narrative.

We now await what could be the biggest fake announcement of our time, the leaving or not of the EU. If we end up with the PM declaring we have left with a version of Theresa May's agreement (which means we have not left), expect levels of faux euphoria in the political classes that will put them in the running for Olivier awards; or alternatively if we leave without a deal, armageddon and threats of people eating their babies will be the mantra from the other lot - all fake, of course !

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Greta Thunberg: Little Girl, Big Business

The Columbo moment - the telling detail - was when she said “Thank you.” Greta Thunberg had just finished telling the UN that they were useless hypocrites set on killing her generation with their greed and complacency; and then she thanked them - and got applause and cheers.

What a performance!

Nothing like a young girl for melting the hearts of us crocodiles. Think of cute little Olga Korbut.

Still - why “thank you”?

Because it WAS a performance. I’m not sure what if any help she got with writing the speech, but her delivery came within a whisker of earning that political Oscar, the Nobel Peace Prize - even though she hasn’t had anyone killed, unlike some previous winners.

Yet how many of us realised that her first line, “we'll be watching you” wasn’t just juvenile rhetoric?

Who, in fact, are “we”? And how could Greta be propelled in such a short time from a lonely vigil outside the Swedish Parliament in August last year, to world prominence?

Turns out, it’s a corporate thing. There’s not just money BEHIND greenery, there’s money IN it. Less than six months after Greta’s first one-girl school strike, Canadian journalist Cory Morningstar was exploring the business nexus that has been using this child as the tip of its spear. Morningstar’s objection? It’s not nearly green enough.

The Left are happy to discount Richard-Littlejohn-ish bottle-throwing at look-at-me SJWs, labelling common-sensical sceptics “far right”; but it must be very disconcerting for them to hear the whizz of bullets from behind: from the real Left, not from the sort that used to stencil Ho Chi Minh images on Oxford college walls in the 1970s before easing themselves into soft jobs in the arts, broadcasting and politics.

Try this “deep green” statement for size:

“The environmental heroes in the West are NOT the Richard Bransons or Leonardo DiCaprios of the world. The real heroes for the environment, due to their almost non-existent environmental footprint, are the homeless – despite the scorn they receive from society as a whole.”

Well, up to a point, Cory. If you want all humanity to be nomadic, you’ll want the world’s population to shrink to prehistoric levels, though the high murder rate in those times might put you off the idea. But San Francisco’s homeless aren’t nomads, except in the sense that many of them have been attracted to the area by free food, a thriving drug market and deliberately lax policing, a hospitality they have rewarded with toxic litter, faeces and communicable diseases, all of which is very costly to deal with.

Not for Greta’s handlers, such grungy right-on-ness. “Work is of two kinds,” said Bertrand Russell. “First, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first one is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.” The Thunberg crew put a big tick in Box B. For Morningstar alleges that their goal is to set themselves up as Olympian judges – prizegivers, examination markers - of corporate greenwashing:

“The main sources of revenue come from commercial players who have received high climate rating and confidence in the We Don’t Have Time’s member base. … The revenue model will resemble the social platform of TripAdvisor.com’s business model, which with its 390 million users annually generates over $ 1 billion in good profitability…We will work with strategic partners such as Climate Reality leaders, climate organizations, bloggers, influencers and leading experts in the field.”

Doubtless their fundamental agenda – and Greta’s – is well-meaning; but it’s going to be a very good life up there among the Gods. When you become the Standard & Poor’s of eco-ness, the schmoozing will be epic.

And, argues the Canadian journalist, fundamentally the project is conservative: it is there to sustain our current rapacious big-business model, to give the machinery a coat of green paint as it roars around the world ripping out whatever it needs to maintain shareholder returns.

“Little Sister will be watching you.” So don’t forget to take us out to lunch.

Thank you.

Friday, October 11, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Pink Floyd, by JD

Pink Floyd are probably one of the most famous 'rock' bands in the world so no introduction is necessary from me as more than enough has been written about them already. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_Floyd

Among the videos below is an excerpt from the film "Pink Floyd - The Wall" (1982). Bassist Roger Waters wrote "Another Brick in the Wall - Part 2" as a protest against rigid schooling, particularly boarding schools but it also reflects Aldous Huxley's views on the education system and I am sure Waters was familiar with Huxley's writing.

Huxley was well aware of the fact that the "Pharisees of verbal orthodoxy" often dismiss those who advocate the cultivation of our perceptual skills as "cranks, quacks, charlatans and unqualified amateurs."

The final video here was written in memory of founder member and inspiration Syd Barrett who left in 1972 due to his mental illness. He died in 2006.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

On This Day

President Nixon' sets up a "madman" nuclear alert, 50 years ago. For three days, B-52 bombers circle over the North Pole to scare Russia and indirectly North Vietnam:


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

My latest article on The Conservative Woman

A version of the post immediately before this one was published yesterday on The Conservative Woman. The comments are interesting and some informative.


Sunday, October 06, 2019

Grumpy McGrumpface: Dawkins on Brexit, democracy and God

Here is part of Professor Dawkins' "Diary" in this week's Spectator magazine:

I hate the very idea of a referendum. Referendums are capable of naming a ship ‘Boaty McBoatface’. We are a parliamentary democracy. We vote for representatives who have the time (and salary) to examine complicated economic and political issues thoroughly and give an informed vote. Nevertheless, having got into this mess through David Cameron’s cowardly folly, the only way out is another referendum. If Leave wins again, we should accept it with good grace and make the best of it. But it’s hard to imagine that Leave could possibly win again, now that we know — as we did not in 2016 — what Leave really means. A connoisseur, too, of religious faith, I detect it in the fanatical zeal of Brexiteers: those for whom the 2016 vote has become unchangeable holy writ; those who are prepared to force Brexit through at any price, even if the price is the obvious and undeniable disaster of no deal. Boris Johnson’s bullying, threatening bluster, when he should be apologising if not resigning, may betoken cynical ambition, but the ill-mannered cheering-on by his barmy supporters surely stems from blind faith.

The kitten of his argument is eaten alive with polemical fleas. Washing these off, we see that he says referendums sometimes give answers that those in charge don't like, which is true, but trite; and that we should have a second referendum because Leavers didn't know what they were voting for the first time, which is not trite and not true.

If anything, during the pre-vote campaign the Leave-inclined public had an unduly bleak picture of economic consequences painted for them by the PM, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Governor of the Bank of England, CBI and all the other panjandrums riding Tom Pearce's grey mare towards Widecombe Fair and their downfall.

One could also argue that Remain-inclined voters were insufficiently informed of the likely consequences of staying in the EU: the military buildup, the legal seizure of control over UK Armed Forces, the aspiration to Empire, the dangerous fiscal imbalances in the Eurozone, the growing regional inequalities that are feeding social unrest, the threat to the UK's Welfare State of unlimited Schengen "free movement of people." Professor Dawkins may find it hard to imagine Leave winning again, but his view is coloured by the knowitall Oxford milieu in which he lives, and which prevents him from understanding - perhaps he has never even met them - the "fanatical", "barmy" and "blind" majority of his fellow subjects.

You may also care to de-flea his preceding paragraph, which is equally tendentious and oratorical:

I would normally not mention Brexit in a diary such as this. But the humiliation of our sick-joke Prime Minister has dominated the week and cannot be avoided. I expected a good verdict from the Supreme Court, but its unanimity and decisiveness had me whooping and thumping the table with joy. It really deserved a standing ovation and I sensed one rising up from decent people all over the country. Whether you voted Leave or Remain, you are surely revolted by the unashamed manipulation of the Queen for partisan political ends. Ends, moreover, that have no sensible connection to ‘the will of the people’. For when ‘the people’ expressed their will in 2016, ‘Leave’ most certainly did not mean ‘Leave with no deal’. It meant, as we were repeatedly assured, an orderly and amicable separation.

One reason he will have been given this space to air his views is that he has just brought out another theological tome, "Outgrowing God." The review in Private Eye magazine (issue 1506, p.36) is unsympathetic and identifies, I think correctly, a weakness in him: an inablity to appreciate alternative points of view. He seems to be the sort of person who "knows what he knows" and that is not a quality to make the best sort of university teacher, I should have thought.

But then the professorship he held from 1995 to 2008 was not for scientific research and teaching per se - though he is a highly distinguished geneticist evolutionary biologist (corrected - please see Bruce Charlton's comment below). The chair of "Public Understanding of Science" was created specifically for him by the billionaire Microsoft applications developer Charles Simonyi, who will not have been unaware of Dawkins' views on religion. Dawkins was given a position that required him to communicate with the public; though under the circumstances, one wonders what is the gist of the messages Simonyi wished him to convey.

In any case, such is the Professor's "fanatical zeal" that he is in danger of undermining his own credibility. Philosopher and Christian Peter Williams says "far from being a disinterested advocate of truth, Dawkins spends his time preaching the gospel of atheism using a raft of fallacious arguments dressed up in an obscuring cloak of science" and gives examples of Dawkins' logical weaknesses here:

Returning to "Outgrowing God": the Private Eye reviewer says

... Worse still is the book's lack of empathy. There is no acknowledgement, let alone understanding, of the fact that, for some young people, science and reason may not offer the same degree of emotional comfort provided by the notion of God and, what's more, this does not necessarily make these individuals wankers. [...] There remains a coldness at the heart of Dawkins' writing that is as self-defeating as it is wearing.

I am sure that when discussing matters within his scientific field Dawkins makes perfect sense. But he may be blind to science's - and his own - limitations.

The philosopher AJ Ayer used to maintain that meaningful statements were only about what could be proved, a position from which he resiled later on. I suggest that one of the unprovable ones is Leibniz's question; "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

It seems to me that any scientific attempt to explain the origin of the Universe can only refer to things we observe in the Universe itself - time, space, matter, energy - and so the explanation will be circular. If the universe had a beginning, we cannot know how it started, even theoretically (references to a multiverse merely raise the question of how that started.) Alternatively, if there was no start, the brute fact of the Universe's existence is equally enigmatic.

I accept that by itself this conundrum goes nowhere near justifying all the tenets of religious dogmas; but I think Professor Dawkins should temper his assertions with a little humility and empathic understanding. He lays about him insensitively, like someone playing Blind-Man's-Buff.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

"It's time for votes at 16" - Labour Party (UK) - oh, really?

The latest Labour Party proposal is to add 1.5 million 16- and 17-year-olds to the British electorate, presumably gambling that they are more than averagely ignorant, gullible and excitable and so will vote for the cost- and trouble-free Utopian visions given them by the backroom people who steer the "narrative." https://labour.org.uk/latest/stories/time-votes-16/

Dropping the voting age didn't work for Harold Wilson and wisely, many young people refrain from balloting on issues and parties about which they know next to nothing.

But some can be wound up to a pitch of melancholy hysteria and used as disposable spokespersons. Their 15 minutes of fame may cost them dear personally in the long run, but they will have served their purpose as far as the political chessplayers are concerned.

Here's 16-year-old Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Action Summit, 23 September 2019:

"My message is that we'll be watching you.

"This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!

"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

"For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

"You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

"The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

"Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

"So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

"To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

"How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just 'business as usual' and some technical solutions? With today's emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

"There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.

"We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

"Thank you."

If we take protesters like this seriously then we need to get down to the Chinese embassy and tell their government to shut off all China's coal-fired power stations.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement 196 nations made a collective undertaking to reduce global warming to "1.5 to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels" and each country is to do its part - known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

But China, trying to raise its people's standard of living above the mire in which it was stuck for thousands of years, is determined to continue with its industrial development and it sits on a vast coalfield. Accordingly, its CO2 output is assessed as consistent with global warming in the 3-4% bracket - a "highly insufficient" commitment, according to climateactiontracker.org.

Of course China is aware of problems connected with burning fossil fuels. It is concerned to reduce the atmospheric pollution that concentrates in the geological basin containing Beijing, for a start. But it won't commit to rigid targets that entail an economic crash. Still, they have a strong incentive to act, in their own way and on their own timescale, without a tearful lecture from a child/woman with Asperger's, OCD and selective mutism.

As to the underlying science of "climate change", despite the threats to their careers and reputations some scientists are beginning to poke their heads above the parapet and call into question the facts as well as the pros and cons:

It is always good not to be wasteful and messy. There's a lot we can and should do to manage our material needs in a more efficient and less unsightly way. Just don't ask the poor to stay poor to suit our Marie Antoinette toy-farm fantasies.

But we should deplore the use of youngsters for propaganda purposes who have limited understanding of the issues and are encouraged to make emotional rants. Or allowing (accompanying, leading!) placard-wielding, slogan-chanting children to take time off school to tell us simplistic nonsense, as I saw in Oxford a few months ago.* If their political education is "gob open, ears shut" then we need to raise the voting age to allow them time to outgrow the indoctrination of their stupid teachers...

... some of whom may have learned all the wrong lessons themselves. I remember the sit-in at Oxford's Examination Schools in 1973, and the marches ("Thatcher! Thatcher! Milk-snatcher!"). Not being a natural joiner, I just watched as nondescript men halfway up lampposts took telephoto shots of the ninnies for the Press and/or the Home Office. What the crowds didn't realise is they were just being used by the self-selected leaders of tomorrow, as sheepdogs practise penning flocks. Then the few worked their way into organisations so they could take charge of the many, for real.

There's much to do; and much to undo.

By the way, one of the the slogans I saw there, "There is no Planet B," is plain wrong.

UPDATE: originally, after the "Marie Antoinette reference", I wrote the following, which Sobers' comment below informs me was a subversive stunt to upset AOC's meeting:

And we can do without insane certainty and crazy, desperate proposals like this one from a young town hall meeting attendee who wore a T-shirt with the slogan "Save the planet, eat the children."

[video was embedded here]

She is well-informed in the modern sense, i.e. knows everything she wants to know. For she is right up-to-date in referring to a Swedish professor (Magnus Soderlund) who recommends cannibalism as a greener form of nutrition.

Since that intensely embarrassing outburst, Democratic Party Congresswoman  Ms Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez correctly tweeted, "This person may have been suffering from a mental condition and it's not okay that the right-wing is mocking her and potentially make her condition or crisis worse. Be a decent human being and knock it off."

But in that case, we should also deplore the use of other youngsters for propaganda purposes who, like this one, have limited understanding of the issues and are encouraged to make emotional rants...

Friday, October 04, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Frank Zappa, by JD

Watching the Proms this year they featured something written 100 years ago which was dire, it was very loud and percussive and tiresome. The presenter Suzy Klein enthused at the end but it was obvious she didn't like it but the Beeb pay her so she had to be polite.

They have over the years been trying to broaden the scope of music. Big band jazz has become more or less a regular feature and there have been Proms devoted to the music of Motown with Sam Moore and William Bell among others. Musical theatre such as West Side Story (with all those 'evil' triads!) has become a staple also and I have already covered the first ever Tango Prom.

But sometimes the choice seems bizarre. If it is good music it is welcome but if it is for 'diversity' they shouldn't bother. (I am too polite to mention the guilty parties.)

My ever fertile brain thought - when will they have the nerve to devote a Prom to the music of Frank Zappa! He recorded with the LSO many years ago and I have been listening to his music recently. He is seriously underrated, he is not a rock musician he is a jazzer who uses rock instruments. Wiggia has already posted FZ's version of Ravel's Bolero so........... are your readers ready for a Zappa musical post? Ready to be Zapped?

(This was a comment on the Bolero video - "Interesting that Ravel was very taken by jazz and became one of the few composers to incorporate sax into his works, Bolero being a prime example. Here we see the four major saxes interpreting his work with great feeling. Classics meets jazz meets pop?")

This final video is his last professional public appearance, as the cancer was spreading to such an extent that he was in too much pain to enjoy an event that he otherwise found "exhilarating". Recordings from the concerts appeared on The Yellow Shark, Zappa's last release during his lifetime.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Brexit and the Remain backlash: the reactionary use of language


Look at the use of these two terms - as they appeared in UK news - and note how the word "populism" spiked around the time of the Referendum, and then got going again in the autumn of 2016 as the propaganda campaign to negate the result got underway:

Monday, September 30, 2019

Child abuse: breaking the chain

When I worked with Looked After Children there was a saying - apparently an old saw in this field: "All abusers have been abused, but not all who have been abused go on to become abusers."

Once you are tuned in to looking for it you'll find it's more common than you really wanted to know. It's even in what used to be a standard schoolroom read: "Quiet incest flourished where the roads were bad..." Laurie Lee, "Cider with Rosie" (1959).

What I didn't know until today is that Sigmund Freud addressed this issue in a lecture to colleagues in 1896 (1) and instead of acclaim "the donkeys gave it an icy reception." It was news they didn't want to hear.

Like metal-detector-wielding treasure hunters, those who look for truth sometimes have to wash off a lot of muck before they can examine their finds. In this case, I've learned a bit of the history of abuse denial by reading a Frenchman who seems to have it in for Jews - but unlike naive SJWs I don't expect to get all my information from completely untainted sources: Laurent Guyénot's "current research focuses on the religious and civilizational backgrounds of Zionist geostrategy" (2). Still, a fact is a fact and it appears from his article today in The Unz Review (3) that Freud's own father sexually abused his children, as Freud told a colleague:

"On February 11, 1897 (4), after mentioning that forced oral sex on children can result in neurotic symptoms, he adds: “Unfortunately, my own father was one of these perverts and is responsible for the hysteria of my brother (all of whose symptoms are identifications) and those of several younger sisters. The frequency of this circumstance often makes me wonder.” "

But, says Guyénot, Freud then backtracked and transformed the issue into one of childhood fantasy instead: hence the Oedipus Complex.

In 1932 one of Freud's followers, Sandor Ferenczi also postulated the reality of child sexual exploitation but when he presented his paper (5) to the 12th International Psycho-Analytic Congress in Wiesbaden he got the same cold treatment as his master: "Ferenczi was ostracized by Freud and his sectarian disciples, and his paper was never translated in English for the International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, as was customary. He died a few years later, a broken man."

Now our French intellectual spins all this into a rococo condemnation of Jews and Jewishness and works it into a pseudo-psychological explanation of Israel's relations with its Middle Eastern neghbours and the USA.

But Laurie Lee's neighbours weren't Jewish, so far as I know; nor are all child abusers men, as we see in the UK's 2009 Plymouth child abuse case (6) [I wonder what had happened in the perpetrators' own childhoods?]

It's a horribly vexed issue, and of its nature hard to prove - especially if accusations are directed against the rich and powerful, as we have seen.

And abuse doesn't have to be physical to be harmful and long-lasting. Merely withholding affection from a child and constantly criticising it builds up a debt that the child will eventually seek to have repaid, if not by the parent (and how?) then by 'revenge' on innocent third parties (including their partners and offspring) and/or by self-hatred and various forms of self-harm.

Yet the worst, most systematic abuse case I encountered didn't drive the victim screaming mad. She was able to give evidence against her father that got him jailed; to normalise relations with her mother, who accepted her own complicity; and when asked to do her bit for a Christmas concert at the children's home, stood up and recited the Nicene Creed.

I felt like cheering.

(1) "The Aetiology Of Hysteria" https://www.freud2lacan.com/docs/The_Aetiology_of_Hysteria.pdf
(2) https://www.greanvillepost.com/2019/06/05/9-11-was-an-israeli-job/
(3) http://www.unz.com/article/freud-sexual-abuse-and-cover-up/
(4) Letter to Wilhelm Fliess, also quoted by PBS here: https://www.pbs.org/youngdrfreud/pages/analysis_doubts.htm
(5) "Confusion of the Tongues Between the Adults and the Child" http://icpla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Ferenczi-S-Confusion-of-Tongues-Intl-J-Psychoa.-vol.30-p.225-1949.pdf
(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Plymouth_child_abuse_case

Friday, September 27, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Ian Anderson, by JD

Jethro Tull Logo.svg

By RicHard-59 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

In the late sixties and early seventies pop groups become more and more hirsute. Among contenders for the longest and straggliest hair were Jethro Tull. Just another rock and roll band you might think.

But no, because, led by vocalist and songwriter and flautist extraordinaire Ian Anderson, they shot to the upper reaches of the 'hit parade' with a lyrical song in 5/4 time. That was unheard of, most R/R music is 4/4 with occasional waltz time (3/4) and the raw stuff in 2/4.

But it was no fluke because Anderson has subsequently enjoyed an illustrious career and proved his musicianship with jazz and classical as well as performing an interstellar duet with an astronaut! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Anderson








A late addition (second above) was Boris Dancing! Too good to resist even if it is about Boris Yeltzin and not 'our' Boris.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Brexit: Patriot Games

"He has put himself at the service of Britain. By proroguing Parliament he has appealed to democracy. He remains virtually the only dictator of modern times who, in the last resort, uses his power to defend democratic principles. Britain will undoubtedly go through great turmoil. In the end the will of the people will prevail. Those who had faith in Britain even during the dark days of the war can have faith now."

Of course, the quotation above is not about Boris Johnson - not de Pfeffel but de Gaulle; and it's not from now, but from the Paris rioting of 1968 (1). All I've done is alter a couple of terms.

In the same article, the writer - eminent historian AJP Taylor - says:

"I once heard a French historian say: "When English people are discontented they form a committee. When French people are discontented they make a revolution." I thought this rather exaggerated, but he turns out to have been right."

And so the piqued Top People have resorted to getting an opinion - a ruling on policy, not on law - from the "Supreme Court" as part of their subversive campaign. Committees, Parliamentary motions, legal rulings, appeals - as in "The African Queen", the very deckboards of the Constitution can be torn up and fed into the flames in the reckless dash towards antidemocratic servitude. The People must be kept down, at all costs.

Again and again, I read - and hear from friends - that releasing us from the EU is somehow a Conservative plot. Yet ten years before we finally entered the EEC (having been held off by de Gaulle while he nailed down the Common Agricultural Policy in favour of French farmers so that it would be unavailable to British ones as well), Professor Taylor clearly understood that getting us in was a Tory policy:

"The Common Market is, for the Government, an end in itself, which will automatically provide a solution for all ills. Conservative economic policy has been a failure. Instead of prosperity and expansion, there has been stagnation and the pay pause. [...]

"Once we are inside, Dr. Adenauer and President de Gaulle will reveal, in a kindly way, the secret of expansion. This is the height of absurdity as well as of evasion. For, just as the Government nerve themselves to take the plunge, expansion is ending in the Common Market countries.

"The move into the Common Market has been, from first to last, a confession by British Ministers that they did not know what to do. Originally it was a scheme for smuggling through devaluation of the pound, and hence reduction of wages, without anyone noticing. Now it is not even that. Entry into the Common Market is not a policy. It is a substitute for a policy. Its consequences, its implications, are never explained. [...]

"What else can a puzzled voter do except doubt and turn his back? He receives no guidance and much confusion from the Government. He receives equal equivocation from the Labour Party. Here too the same refusal to decide. The same refusal to state clearly the issues involved for and against. The failure of the Labour leadership to come out clearly against the Common Market has been the greatest lost opportunity of our time. It is this failure more than anything else which keeps the Government of Mr. Macmillan in office." (2) (emphases mine.)

As to the "Supreme Court", that child of Blair's constitutional vandalism - it should go, and the Law Lords return.


(1) AJP Taylor: "Will Germany be the Next to Explode?" The Sunday Express, London, June 2 1968
(2) "Macmillan Has Not Found The Answer Yet", The Sunday Express, London, July 15 1962

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Climate crisis? by JD

At the weekend the Mail Online had a headline about Greta Thunberg receiving a 'rock star' reception at the UN. Today (monday 23rd) the same Mail Online had two very different headlines: one was how Soros and all his money was supporting the 'climate crisis' hysteria and the other was about how Dinesh D'Souza compares Greta Thunberg to an Aryan poster girl used by the NAZIS (The story linking Soros to Thunberg has been removed since this morning)

But is there now a realisation that the relentless and fact free propaganda is nothing more than a 'sky is falling' scare story. A lot of stories and comments are emerging criticising the hidden agenda in all this. This video is just one of them-

At the end I laughed out loud, spluttering my tea all over....... Greta's middle name is Tintin! What!! What on earth possessed her parents to call her Tintin. I know there is a current fashion for daft names but...... Tintin?

But to be serious, as noted in the video, Greta's grandfather is Olof Thunberg. His Wiki entry says that he is related to the Swedish Nobel Prize winner Svante Aarhenius, possibly his uncle for Aarhenius' mother is a Thunberg.

Svante Aarhenius is well known as the 'father' of global warming far he first established how CO2 could combine with H2O to form carbonic acid in the atmosphere and it was this which retained the heat; thus global warming. 

But he did not think that this was necessarily a bad thing and was probably beneficial and provided an opportunity to increase crop yields and bring agricultural production to areas of the world which are currently dormant.

"We often hear lamentations that the coal stored up in the earth is wasted by the present generation without any thought of the future, and we are terrified by the awful destruction of life and property which has followed the volcanic eruptions of our days. We may find a kind of consolation in the consideration that here, as in every other case, there is good mixed with the evil. By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind." (p63)


Other sources are also asking pertinent questions or maybe impertinent questions, depends on your point of view.

"A workplace strike shows company owners and management that workers are able to harm them economically. A school strike, on the other hand, constitutes a form of self-harm, undertaken to attract adult attention. And the global school strike for climate is led by a girl with a long and tragic history of self-harm to her own body.
(Greta does not skip classes from just any school, but one for children with special needs. Many other Swedish families fight hard to get their children into such schools, because places are rare.)

And other sources are highlighting that the 'climate crisis' is just another way to increase the tax burdon on us all as well as being another part of the political desire to keep us all poor and stupid. (see links at end) The 'climate crisis' is also a good business opportunity for 'green entrepreneurs' to make a great deal of money. Who is Ingmar Rentzhog for example and what is his connection to Greta Thunberg?

“How is it possible for you to be so easily tricked by something so simple as a story, because you are tricked? Well, it all comes down to one core thing and that is emotional investment. The more emotionally invested you are in anything in your life, the less critical and the less objectively observant you become.” — David JP Phillips, We Don’t Have Time board of directors, “The Magical Science of Storytelling”

So in all this fog of misinformation who is right; the 16 year old school girl with Asperger's or her Nobel Prize winning great uncle?

'poor and stupid' -
The various links to http://www.poorandstupid.com/ all say - Not Found.

Looking at the products of our education system it is clear that the 'stupid' target has already been met; school leavers and college graduates have been taught to obey the system and not to think. That leaves the 'poor' target and that is getting ever closer!

Friday, September 20, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Duke Ellington, by JD

Last week at the Proms there was an evening of music inspired by Duke Ellington's three concerts of sacred music.

It was good but seemed to be less than inspired, lacking the passion and soul of the original concerts. The originals are available in full on YouTube and here is a selection from Duke himself and his peerless orchestra.

Swedish opera singer Alice Babs who features in several of the following videos deserves a special mention:

"Babs participated in performances of Ellington's second and third Sacred Concerts which he had written originally for her. Her voice had a range of more than three octaves; Ellington said that when she was not available to sing the parts that he had written for her, he had to use three different singers."

Monday, September 16, 2019

A Very English Institution, by Wiggiatlarge

Anyone who thinks this is not worth a post will have to indulge me on this, it is a touchstone of that quintessential Englishness that survives by its fingernails in this modern day.

No doubt those who frequent the likes of McDonalds will pass this place by without a thought of what it represents, a last bastion  of a rapidly disappearing age.

We came across it some years back when travelling the coast road in north Norfolk. Having failed to find a parking spot in nearby Cley-next-the Sea (pronounced Cly as in spy, yes and believe it or not there is a place called Cley Spy) we travelled on. All these small coastal villages are solid in the summer months and we normally go there out of holiday times and out of season.

But this time no, so we were looking for somewhere to stop and get a cup of tea and a bun and though we had passed this place numerous times had never stopped as it is not instantly appealing, and its placement means you are past it before you can make a decision to stop; but needs must so this time we made the effort.

The car park is a pretty good indication of what is to come: not exactly accessible and shared with the staff of the village school directly opposite. No space this time so we parked in the road of the T junction, itself a challenge as there is no pavement and you get out on the passenger side straight into a running ditch if not careful.

Everything about this place is of a time. The outdoor tables and benches have seen better days yet are full of on a sunny day of fellow travellers eating and drinking, yet it is when entering for the first time that you are taken aback by what appears to be not a cafe but an antiques shop, library and art gallery all in one untidy heap. After going there for years nothing seems strange any more, the half price book sale has been going on since that first visit and before, some of the 'antiques' gather dust with time and I have never seen anything sold but I could be wrong.

Several local artists have their works on the walls and unframed works and photos are in racks to browse through. I often browse these and they do sell as I notice certain favorite pieces  are missing each time I browse.

The Old Reading Rooms is laid out with an entrance and food counter plus seating and tables and you then go through an arch to another room that has a divider of books and antiques down the middle, you really can’t escape anything in the back room. To the left is another room crammed with works of art, antiques etc in a totally shambolic arrangement, sort of early Tescos where all is shoved in your face, though in this case I don’t think that was the intention, more the case of finding a space and filling it.

The toilets are to the rear of this room at the back of a smaller room that used to have outdoor walking gear for sale - hats, shoes, coats, rainwear. Not much of that left now, a couple of all weather hats and a small asst of anoraks, perhaps this side of the business has not been a roaring success or just forgotten it is still there ? The gentlemen's toilet completes the tour: a long thin room with a hand basin on entry, then for reasons unknown a five-foot metal filing cabinet with a padlock, then the toilet. I have never had the nerve to ask about the placement of the filing cabinet, but I should for the sake of my sanity as every time I go there I ask myself why !

The real reason for any visit to the Old Reading Rooms is naturally not books, antiques or art works but the food and drink, and this is where it gets good. The display in the food cabinet gives a clue to what's on offer: all is made on the premises. You give your order to the always jovial Mine Host, ably assisted by family and some others in the high season; the tray of goodies is brought to your table, a table I might add covered in a plastic tablecloth depicting fruit from probably the fifties. All the chairs fail to match which gives the place a certain frisson; nothing is too much trouble for the owner who will get cushions for those with ‘problems’  and the like, without ever a hint.

To start you get a pot of tea of a standard rare these days, it actually tastes like tea and you get a pot plus hot water to give you about four cups should you need it. The food is on a fairly short menu: sandwiches, toasted sandwiches , panini, jacket potatoes, quiche, pasties (all their own), the list you can see in the photo, even the menu is utilitarian. But the cakes and puds are what make this place stand out - as I said, all made on the premises: deep filled apple pie, lemon meringue, cherry tart, and more; cakes are Victoria sponge, carrot cake, coffee and walnut, two types of chocolate cake and on and on, all are delicious all have that lovely moist texture and all come with cream if you so wish.

The story  would not be complete without giving a run-down on the clientele. It has to be said that this part of Norfolk is full of retirees and many frequent this place, you can tell as all are greeted with first names and on occasions the people coming through the door resemble that outing in Reach For The Sky when the injured patients from the hospital go out to the tea rooms complete with plastered limbs and crutches. By the same token a lot of bikers use the place and others but mainly it is the older section of society, as myself these days, that know a good thing when they come across it and fill the tables on a regular basis.

It is always fatal to say there can’t be many places like this left, but reality says they must be a dying breed, rather like the clientele, still at least the cakes have been appreciated by many and with luck will be for some years to come.

Friday, September 13, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Reynaldo Hahn and Susan Graham, by JD

Reynaldo Hahn was a little-known Venezuelan/French composer.
Susan Graham is an American mezzo-soprano with a very clear and pure voice.
Together they give us some beautiful calming music; a counterpoint to these troubled times.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Doctor of What, Exactly? by Wiggiaatlarge

I came across this after following a link on the excellent site of David Thompson.

“ Dr. Gagliano grew up in northern Italy and is a marine ecologist by training. She spent her early career studying Ambon damselfish at the Great Barrier Reef.

"After months underwater observing the little fish, Dr. Gagliano said she started to suspect that they understood a lot more than she’d thought — including that she was going to dissect them. A professional crisis ensued.

"Plants were inching their way into her life. As Dr. Gagliano tells it, she’d been volunteering at an herbalist’s clinic, and had begun using ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew that induces visions and emotional insights (and often nausea). She says that one day, sober, she was walking around her garden and heard, in her head, a plant suggest that she start studying plants.

"In 2010, she travelled to Peru for the first time to work with a plant shaman called Don M.”

The whole article in the NY Times is here with more of the same being dressed up as research……..


These types of article always suggest that we as humans have missed something in plants, that plants have a mind system like ours trapped within themselves and all that is needed is a vehicle to get inside and discover the truth.

Plants of course are quite remarkable in that they have evolved to survive a particular environment over thousands of years, in many ways matching the creatures that have done the same, so that fertilisation and the continuance of the species is ensured. The interaction in many cases is amazing, but is a single act repeated every year in most cases and is a reflex action, not thought as the likes of the good Doctor would imply.

Prince Charles would have us believe we can talk to plants and that hugging trees is good for you; who knows it might be good for him, in a world where you can be anything you want to be perhaps he will come out as an oak... indeed some people actually suffer from paraphilia who are sexually aroused by trees or by touching them, but this is an avenue of interest only for the like minded.

But why do we seem to be bombarded with items like this, that are expected to be read as fact, as with the fads of veganism where we are told in no uncertain terms that going without meat will enhance your well being - though we are now told it will also give you a higher chance of a heart attack and earlier dementia ! And also save the planet by eliminating farting cattle, they never think things through with their statements.

It will be interesting if this theory on noxious gases being eliminated by getting rid of cattle comes to pass. I see difficulties in several areas: in India the cow is a sacred animal, no touchee there; the herbivores which migrate across Africa in their millions; the re stocking of the American plains with buffalo; and the people of Argentina who live on beef and make their living from selling it. I expect there are more implications but that is enough to get some perspective of the nonsense spouted by so-called scientists, doctors even, and star-struck acolytes that never seem to see anything other than from their own narrow and often very badly based science.

The agenda and subsidy market is an extremely crowded space yet still they come all jockeying for that righteous place at the top table where they can demand more, more for them that is, and in the process diminish the masses. I am awaiting the suggestion that we will be returning to rationing for everything for our own good, the suggestion by a think tank, no doubt paid for by the same people that they would like to impoverish.  Proposing the abolition of the private car is a fair start - again I don’t believe they have thought it through, and so it goes on.

It could end up that talking to trees is the safe option, before we all go "bark-ing" mad.

Friday, September 06, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Béla Fleck and Banjo, by JD

That odd musical instrument the banjo conjures up images of hillbillies and rednecks playing bluegrass and country music and, thanks to TV and films, images of toothless, retarded country dwellers suspicious of city folks (the film Deliverance springs to mind.) But that shows the power of propaganda to shape our perceptions.

The banjo is every bit as sophisticated as any other stringed instrument and a lot harder to play well. Alongside John Hartford (already featured in this series) one of the best banjo players is undoubtedly Bela Fleck who takes it out of Bluegrass and produces something quite extraordinary by using it in jazz, rock, Celtic music, African music as well as classical. (He is named after Bela Bartok after all!)

In the current lineup of his group The Flecktones he has three equally gifted musicians in the Wooten brothers and Jeff Coffin. Together they have created something quite unique!


Thursday, September 05, 2019

Brexit Withdrawal Agreement - Problems? What Problems?

Can anyone deny that the EU's representatives have dragged their feet and exaggerated difficulties in the Article 50 negotiations?

Compare M. Barnier's wilful obstructions with the way in which the EU's founder, Jean Monnet, handled the task given to the League of Nations in 1921, of resolving the dispute over Upper Silesia between Germany and Poland. This involved Polish steel, German coal, German factories, Polish factory workers. As Monnet says in his memoirs:

"The signatories of the Versailles Treaty had originally decided to give the whole territory to Poland. After violent protests from Germany, however, they agreed, in accordance with the nationality principle, to organize a plebiscite. Voting took place in March 1921. the results rather favoured Germany; but the voting pattern made only one solution possible: partition on the lines of ethnic majorities. The Germans were in a majority in the towns of the industrial area in the East. Between them and Germany itself lay a zone mainly peopled by Poles. Both Berlin and Warsaw tried to pre-empt any settlement by seizing territorial hostages. The Polish Army occupied the region, and the Germans riposted with the Freikorps. Allied forces had to intervene."

And yet, using independent arbitration overseen by the League's Secretariat, mutually satisfactory arrangements were made:

"The German-Polish Convention signed on May 15, 1922, contained no fewer than 606 separate items: it was thicker than the Treaty of Versailles. The achievement was greatly admired. Although every step had been difficult, nothing had proved impossible, given the political will to succeed. The technical experts had done wonders in many different fields - co-ordinating rail systems and customs duties, building monetary union, protecting minorities. It was their job. Solutions which had seemed inconceivable the previous day became natural in the broad new context worked out for them. To me, this seems inevitable. I have never over-estimated technical snags."

Get on with it!

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Parliament and Brexit: a long shot?

"Paddington": My concern is that pulling out of alliances makes the multi-national companies more powerful. They will fill the power vacuum, and are basically not answerable to anyone.

Me: I share that concern but according to Costas Lapavitsas the multinationals already work hand in glove with the EU. The UK is a big enough economy to have a chance of standing up to them, if there's the political will - which to judge by the hysterical ignoramus children we have in Parliament is a long shot.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Nature the Great Leveller, by Wiggiatlarge

Having worked in horticulture in various capacities including running my own garden design and build company one does over the years learn to respect nature and its vagaries.

Gardening and agriculture are both involved in working with and against nature to achieve the result we want, whether it be crops to put food on the table or a garden to enjoy and hopefully relax in.

It is rare for two years to be alike and the different types of weather dictate growth, the timing of crops and flora and the crop output in the food section. All the weather throws at us can be mitigated to a degree in the form of plant protection and fertilizers that can boost a poor year in the sunshine department as examples, but never totally.

This year has been a bit different: the early heat, the heavy following rain, the humidity and a repeat of all three have provided - especially the humidity - a perfect breeding ground for pests and fungus. It has been the worst year I can remember.

I have lost three mature eight-foot shrubs. Two I originally thought to be die-back from the incessant wind - we have also had dessicated leaves and causing early tree leaf drop - but inspection proved it to be a disease that killed the two to the ground.

The third was Verticillium Wilt, a spore fungus that waits underground until conditions are right and enters the shrub/plant through the root system and cuts down the uptake of water in the stems. You can cut back and hope new growth will come back untainted but that is a bit of a long shot so the only way is to remove the shrub and burn the infected plant; this will not rid the ground of the spores so you have to plant something that is not affected by it. The plant/shrub I lost was a rare species, Cotinus, American smokebush, that had reached a stage when it was glorious in colour, both during the year and in the autumn.

Mid season saw not a new pest but an ever more prevalent one: Lily beetle. I grew a lot of Lilies in the past but their susceptibility to fungus disease made me reluctantly give up the unequal struggle; but recent years saw me return to growing them as the price has fallen dramatically from those early days and the culture growth used to raise these bulbs now means they are a lot ‘cleaner’ than before and you can expect a reasonable innings out of them.

Yet along comes the Lily beetle in an attempt to make me give up again. The bright red beetle comes from underground and lays its eggs under the leaf. They hatch in an amazingly short time and then cover themselves with their own shit, to put it bluntly, to make themselves unpalatable to birds !
Unchecked, they can strip a lily plant in a couple of days, but if spotted you can creep up on the red buggers before they go upside down and fall to earth as their defence mechanism dictates and take great delight in putting your boot on them; but they do return and it is easy to miss the emerging young, so spray is the order of the day and spray and spray……

Having repelled the red buggers all was serene in the garden until a couple of days ago. I noticed what I thought was simply a bit of die back on my topiary box, but on checking a couple of days later I soon saw it was the dreaded box blight. I have dealt with box blight over the years and it has a mixed result on the box. Some are only mildly disfigured and recover. No box is actually killed by the disease, but many really don’t respond and many are not worth the effort in saving; it is a mixed bag.

Where it has the most damaging affect is with topiary, as topiary is a manicured plant cut to a shape, having a large dead hole in the middle of that plant rather destroys the whole purpose of topiary, so there is in those case little choice other than to burn on the now very busy garden bonfire.

Inspecting all my topiary revealed that only two large variegated cones so far have escaped the blight and I have moved them in their pots as far away from the infected ones, probably too late but time will tell. For me it is not the expense of these plants: the two spirals shown here would cost north of £500 each from a specialist nursery and my two large variegated cones are almost impossible to find never mind the cost, but it is the fact I grew these from basic plants myself from scratch. The two spirals have taken around twenty years to reach their current size, and to see that destroyed almost overnight leaves me using a lot of bad language to no avail.

But that is nature. The strange thing re the box is that there is another pest spreading across the country for which there is no antidote: a moth that lays eggs and the caterpillars emerge and destroy the plant almost overnight. It has spread from its native Japan where it does have a predator, a hornet, but it has no adversaries outside of Japan so far. So box is in danger already of virtually disappearing from gardens after centuries of cultivation. The biggest box nursery in the UK has admitted that box is in a perilous position. They themselves have launched an all-out attempt to stop the caterpillar - after all, it is their livelihood - by constantly spraying using substances that are not available to the public and inspecting thousands of plants and removing by hand anything they find and killing it.

But spraying eight times a year and the rest is not viable in the domestic garden so who is going to buy box as and when the word gets out? So box is likely to go the way of the Elm until resistant cultivars are discovered or bred, never a quick process. What with Ash trees disappearing fast and Oak under threat there could be a large change in the landscape soon; though in many cases these diseases peter out or are confined, there have been many examples of recovery or resistance in nature such as the recent Chestnut scare and the London Plane trees some years back, both have stopped being infected.

So all in all not a good year in the garden and a lot of work, as that which thrived has grown like the proverbial and an extra hedge cut is called for. You really, really can never win with nature if it decides to fight back.