Friday, November 29, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Sacred Harp, by JD

This style of 'a capella' singing is new to me. It is called Sacred Harp singing or Shape Singing.

I had not heard of it until I came across a link in a comment on a US blog a couple of weeks ago. The link was the first video shown below. I found this brief description beneath one of the other videos in the series but don't remember which:

"Welcome to the incredible talent of the Sacred Heart Singers of Cork, an Irish music group who sing a cappella in the style of Sacred Harp, a sacred choral music that originated in the American South of the United States.

"Having originated in the South in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the singers are led not by traditional musical notes but by shapes which represent the different pitches while time is not kept with a formal conductor but through the communal keeping of time as everybody beats their hands."

The tune and lyrics of Babylon Is Fallen are thought to be from the 17th century and it then travelled to the USA with the Shakers. In the USA it is known as Shape Singing and, by coincidence, that phrase appeared in the new BBC series on the origins of country music.

The first of Ken Burns' films told the story of the first recordings made in Bristol, Tennessee in 1927. One of the singers had borrowed the Shape Singing hymn book from a local Methodist church and had adapted some of the tunes/lyrics for his recording sessions.

Apart from the brief notes above it is difficult to find much information on this Sacred Harp or Shape singing but there is a lot of it on YouTube.

Friday, November 22, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Marin Marais, by JD

This week's music comes from the French composer Marin Marais (1656 - 1728) who wrote music for the viola da gamba, a stringed instrument similar to the cello but with seven strings as opposed to the cello's four.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Wine for Christmas…. Again….Already….. by Wiggiatlarge

Writing this is a wonderful example of how realising that it is time for another listing, is that the years go by ever quicker. If I didn’t have a calendar I would have guessed it was around August Bank Holiday, at the latest, but it isn’t and time for the annual suggestions. Unlike the tasters in the magazines and online who have access to unlimited wines, my list is from wines I have purchased and tasted/drunk with very few exceptions.

Christmas is the time for celebration, or should be, though this year there is very little in this land to celebrate. All the more reason to buy a few bottles for the festive season and enjoy that warm feeling you will not get if you read the dead tree press or watch television news.

Celebration means sparkling wine and Champagne, and as before I have to confess this is an area I have the least input on. I do like the odd bottle of Champagne/sparkling wine but have with very few exceptions found it difficult to justify the price for the pleasure it gives; but I am in a minority, so believing in the main these bottles will be used for family gatherings and parties I have kept the price down to manageable levels as one bottle will not usually suffice.

In no particular order:
  • Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Cremant de Loire Brut - I can genuinely recommend this at around £11.
  • Aldi do a very presentable Champagne at the ridiculous price (for Champagne, that is !) of £12.49: Veuve Monsigny Brut Grand Reserve NV
  • Asda ditto with their own Extra Special Louis Bernard Champagne.
  • Morrisons Adrien Chopin brut Champagne at currently £15
      and at Waitrose a couple or so of goodies from a very large choice:
  • Cave de Lugny NV sparkling Burgundy at £13.99.
  • Juve & Camps seleccion reserve Cava £11.99, which is very good at this price level.
  • L’Atzar Cava Reserve at £10.99 - another great value Cava.
  • Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir  at £15.99 for something a bit different from Australia, in effect a rosé
  • And a goody from our own vineyards if you want to push the boat out a bit more: Ridgeview Bloomsbury NV  - £28.99.

There are some good Proseccos among all the rubbish but not having tasted any apart from one, they stay unmentioned. This is now a very popular and large category and there is something for everyone if you like sparkling wine. The one was Tesco's Finest Prosecco Brut at £8: I thought it decent and good value. Critics thought a lot more of it and gave it best value bubbly, which shows how tastes can vary, I just did not think it was ‘that’ good.

We follow with Port and Sherry and the fortified section. Sherry has been struggling with sales in recent years but the figures for this year show a very welcome and decent increase in sales. The depressed market has meant depressed retail prices for many years but this could all change so take advantage of some of the bargains of the wine world while you can. Port on the other hand is still struggling to sell and again there are some relative bargains in the sector.

If you like vintage port and don’t want to spend the £60-100 pounds needed to buy the best examples like Taylors and Grahams then look for the lesser brands, often the Portuguese owned ones such as Kopke, the oldest Port House of all, Ramos Pinto and Calem, or the single vineyard vintage ports put out by the likes of Taylors, Grahams and Warre normally seen as Quintas (single vineyards), some in wooden gift boxes and often as low as £20 when on offer. Taylors Vargelas is a good one and available at Waitrose and elsewhere.

Port is not difficult to evaluate, it changes little as to what is on offer year on year, and many of the more popular ones are made to standard that varies little each year, nonetheless the quality is high across the board.

If you want a ruby port to please Granny when she appears at Christmas, Morrisons Ruby Port as last year is still the option that is easiest on the pocket and within the bottle is real quality, a bargain.
I would go for something a bit better at this time. All the major players, Taylors, Graham, Warres, Cockburn, Sandeman and so on do very good LBVs, late bottled vintage, crusted and tawny ports with age. The tawny versions are probably the best in this category and the ten-year versions from all of them will not break the bank though my favorite and that of many who have tasted it is not so cheap: Grahams 20 year Tawny will set you back the best part of £40 but is worth every penny, again available at Waitrose and elsewhere.

For a sweeter tooth some very good Marsalas such as those from Pellegrino and Marco de Bartoli are worth looking out for and again won't break the bank at well under £10, they also double up as a drink and a wonderful addition to pour over ice cream and certain desserts, plus many of these dessert wines are in half bottles so no waste if you just want a glass. Look out also for Madeiras: they are not in fashion at the moment and the vineyards are going through a hard time, but the likes of Blandys Duke of Clarence is available at ASDA for a tenner and Henriques & Henriques Full Rich Madeira is available at Waitrose for £10.99, another out of fashion bargain.

As I said sherry is apparently on the up, there are certainly more of the better higher priced sherries coming onto the market but not really in supermarkets, in fact supermarkets seem to be cutting back their ranges. Sainsbury’s has for instance gone nearly all own label and no longer include a fino or manzanilla at all in their range !

For the dry finos and manzanillas the choice is stark unless you are a member of the Wine Society or have a good independent merchant near you.

So the choice comes down to Morrisons own label fino which is amazing value at £5.50; and Waitrose own label fino and award winning manzanilla at £7.65 - both are reliable and way above their price in quality. Another quality manzanilla available at Waitrose and elsewhere is Solear by Barbadillo, lovely wine for little more and Hidalgos Pasana Pastrada Manzanilla.

For Amontillados and Olorosos the choice is better if you shop at Waitrose, every where else is cutting back on sherry and introducing own labels. Sainsbury's no longer do a Fino own label and Majestic have all but abandoned sherry altogether apart from one Amontillado by the very good firm of Hidalgo, Napoleon Seco (dry) at £14.99. Tesco have one stand out Oloroso under the Finest label: a half bottle of Pedro Ximinez at £6.00. A standout Oloroso is Morrisons the Best, made by Lustau one of the great sherry houses this, dry nutty and recommended, £5.50, a bargain.

Waitrose is fast becoming the only supermarket that does a decent range of sherries and their own label Amontillado at £7.65 is to be recommended, they also stock Lustaus East India Solers Oloroso an old sherry in a 50cc bottle at £11.99, plus a very good 12 years old oloroso from Williams and Humbert at £11.99, they also stock the Gonzalez Byass range in half bottles with which you cannot go wrong.

Bargain wines: the "five pound ceiling", so called by the trade as buyers here are reluctant to spend more on a bottle of wine has not stopped the trade continually pushing for people to spend ‘a little more’ and reap the benefits. All things being equal it makes sense, it is true that the actual value of the wine in a five pound bottle is as low as 30p, the rest taken up with tax, marketing, packaging and of course profits for all involved. If you spend a tenner on a bottle the value of the wine rises to around £1.60, so you can see where they are coming from. As usual that presupposes that the wine is any good so spending a tenner does not guarantee quality because of the price alone.

Five pounds for a bottle: are there any good ones out there? For those throwing parties, five pound bottles make sense as few will care much about the quality as long as it is drinkable, yet there are some decent bottles at that price or near even now so it does no harm to look for them.Most of that bracket is controlled by the huge wineries such as the American giant Gallo, and the Australian equivalents, the Barefoot, Yellowtail etc bottles dominate, yet you can see on the shelves some other more distinctive bargains. You have to be careful in this sector as often new wines are put in competition to win awards and recognition and that year's production can be very good for the money, but subsequent vintages have a habit of sliding down the quality scale as the initial vintage is in effect a loss leader.

Anyway, here's a few reds to get you started:

  • Sainsbury's Rioja Era Cosana Crianza at £5.85 is a steal and seems to keep up the standard vintage to vintage
  • Tesco do a gluggable Nero D’Avola at £5.50
  • Waitrose do an own label Romanian Pinot Noir at £5.50 which for a decent PN is ridiculous
  • Morrisons do a equally good Pinot Noir from Argentina by Trapiche at two for £10, perfect party wines.
  • Aldi do an ‘Exquisite’ Malbec at £5.99 that just squeezes in and is decent, plus Toro Loco organico Utiel Requena at £4.99 is the bargain of them all and the best of several Toro Loco wines. Aldi in fact easily outstrip everyone on VFM cheapies.
  • Lidl manage a couple of decent cheapies: their Winemakers Selection Barrosa Valley Shiraz  £5.99 is a bargain for a fruity full on Shiraz, plus there is a ridiculously cheap (at £3.99) Cimarosa South African Pinotage, cheap enough to fill everyone's boots.
  • A late addition and a very big prizewinner from ASDA is Wine Atlas Feteascu Neagra for £5.25 a bottle, berry flavours fresh and a terrific party wine, from Romania - we are at last going to see more good wines at fair prices from the eastern bloc.

Whites in this cheap grouping offer a much more varied choice for reasons I simply don’t know, they easily outstrip the reds. I’ll start with:

  • Aldi - under the Exquisite label they have a very good Rias Baixas Alberino and a Sauvignon Blanc from Freemans Bay both £5.99, plus a Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley (Chile) £5.49. Add to that a very drinkable Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie £5.69 and again under the own label a Limestone Coast Chardonnay £5.99 and you have if you want pretty well covered the needs of white party wines.
  • Morrisons own Sauvignon Blanc from Chile at £4.50 is if nothing else drinkable and at that price you can fill up your guests' glasses without feeling your wallet draining.
  • Waitrose have a Hungarian Hilltop Estate Pinot Grigio that has been reduced to £5.99
  • Lidl stock a very good value Soave Classico £4.49, a Cimarosa Torrontes from Argentina £4.99 and another under the Cimarosa label, a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough £5.99.
  • ASDA have a Viognier if you would like something a little different: La Grand Clauzy, currently at £5.00.


Right, let's get away from the party cheapies. Better wines: here are some wines red and white that you might fancy over the festive period either with food or on their own, no particular price points though the expensive stuff is not usually stocked by supermarkets anyway.

Some new finds among this selection, there could be many more but I have tried to whittle it down to something manageable.

Just a point before I start: it is no surprise and I voiced such some years back, now that the supermarkets have cornered the everyday wine trade the choice is being throttled and more own labels are taking over. Tesco in particular have gone from what was a good high street wine retailer to an extremely, in the main, boring one with more own labels and big brands than anyone else, but the others are not far behind. It was inevitable with their buying power this would happen. Given nothing to compare with, own labels are not inherently bad but do give the supermarkets the chance to price without comparison.

Firstly Waitrose, the last supermarket to still have a decent range of wines from individual growers. Starting with their reds:

  • Wirra Wirra Church Block a blend of three grapes from the Barrosa very reliable - £13.99
  • Vinalba Reserve Malbec from Argentina also £13.99, Vinalba do a very good range of wines at or around the ten pound mark.
  • Kilikanoon Grenache Shiraz Mataro £10.99
  • Castilo de Olite Collecion from Spain very good price-quality ratio at £9.99
  • Chateau Maris Organic Minervois £10.99 very upfront fruit but fresh, and from the same stable
  • Chateau Maris Les Planels Cru La Liviniere £17.99 - I really liked this one
  • Le Sabbie dell’Etna Rosso £12.99
  • Baiocchi Montefalco Sagrantin - an unusual grape but very nice wine: £15.99

Waitrose have quite a few others more than worthy of inclusion plus their fine wine section, but I have tried to keep the selection fresh.

White wines from Waitrose:

From a large range of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that do little for me despite their popularity, the best I have tasted are:
  • Astrolabe Awatere £19.99
  • Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc £14.99 
  • and a Pinot Gris as good as I have tasted outside of the Alsace, from ARA Single Vineyard at £10.99.
Waitrose whites from elsewhere:
  • A better Italian, Terredora Greco di Tufo £14.99
  • From Bordeaux. Chateau La Louviere is a classic blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, lovely with fish dishes £24.99
  • and a Chardonnay from California: Frei Brothers Sonoma Reserve £17.99.

Majestic are going through a time of takeover so I've no idea what lies ahead. They have suffered for a variety of reasons, the main one being the strange pricing policies. Nevertheless there are some good red wines there:

  • Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva 2009 £19.99
  • Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2016 La Casetta £14.99
  • Nero Oro Riserva from Sicily £11.99
  • Gnarly Dudes Shiraz from Two Hands winery £18.99
  • Vinalba Touriga Nacional-Malbec Reserve £11.99 - the pick for me of five different Vinalba wines Majestic do, all good.


  • Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc is for me as good as any from NZ with that grape £17.99
  • Domaine Saint Ferriol Viognier is a cracker at £12.99
  • a spicy Gerwurtztraminer from Schlumberger, Les Princes Abbes, great firm nice wine £14.99
  • a lovely Chardonnay from Domaine Begude ‘Arcturus’ from the Limoux region: expensive but worth it £36.00
  • a better than average Gavi La Raia ‘Il Borgo’ £11.99 finishes those that I have tried from Majestic.

The Sainsbury's whites that caught the eye during the year:

  • Stellenrust Chenin Blanc from SA at £8.50 is a good buy 
  • also from SA the Bellingham Bernard Series Rousanne makes a change £10.25

Tesco have just introduced a Rhone white from Guigal who do not seem to make a bad wine, Guigal Cote de Rhone White is £12.00.

Aldi have a rather good white Grenache, Baron de Ley Garnacha Blanca at £8.99 and a Kirkberg from Austria Gruner Veltliner £8.99 a favoured grape with many.

In reds Aldi actually have found a Barberesco for £9.99 Roversi normally I would steer clear of cheap wines from this part of the world but this one bucks the trend amazing value for a prestigious bottle.

Whereas ASDA can offer Cascina Valentino Roero Arneis, a difficult grape and rarely true to type but here they managed a good stab at it at a very good price £9.50.

Morrisons are not known for top end wines, yet in their offerings

  • the Vinalba Malbec and blends are a good buy and usually at least one is on offer at around £10
  • Contino Reserva Rioja is a top rate version at £22.50 
  • and they usually have the Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir at £14.00 which is cheaper than anyone else for a good South American version of the grape.

Anyone looking for a Riesling will struggle to find anything in these stores, only Majestic have few, the best being from Australia. The ones they have I haven’t tried but by reputation for quality the Greywacke version would be the one I would go for, otherwise the choice is dire.

I no longer have a decent Co-op near me. The last one had a very good range of wines and many rather surprising ones, it was always worth a browse, but from their web site I see a very good Bordeaux, Ch Senejac 2012 £17 pounds is available, not the sort of wine you expect at the Co-Op but you would be wrong, lovely wine to go with the Christmas dinner. If you like spicy Rhone reds they do a couple from the firm of Perrin, a Chateauneuf de Pape Les Sinards £20 and a Vinsobres Les Cornuds at just £10.

Pudding or dessert wines are not everyone's taste yet again there are many lovely bottles to be had, if you have  sweet tooth or want something to go with the Stilton or any other strong blue cheese. These are wines that I have had over time and they are normally very reliable, just a few then:

  • Aldi have an Australian ‘sticky’ De Bortolis Liquer Muscat at £8,
  • Sainsbury's do a rather special treat Royal Tokaji Late Harvest in their Taste the Difference range 50cl bottle at £10 a real value buy for such a prestigious winery
  • Waitrose again have easily the biggest range in these wines: a Sauterne from Ch Liot a half bottle at £13.99 is good value, plus from the Loire Chateau Gaudrelle Vouvray Reserve Especial Moelleux, another half bottle at £10.99 makes a change - a lot of very good sweet wines come from the Loire but are rarely seen.  


You may have noticed there are no rosés shown, that is because I rarely drink them, but instead a photo of a rosé will have to suffice !

Perhaps "pink wine" would be a better term...

What this past year has shown is the contraction in many areas of wine within the supermarkets. Own labels and big brands now rule.

If you want find interesting wines you are going to have to look elsewhere, I have mentioned before The Wine Society have a wonderful range at all price points the £40 life membership is worth every penny and you get £20 back on your first order they are well worth a look.

I hope there is something there for everyone, not including £20-plus wines apart from one or two is a deliberate move as I imagine drinkers who regularly spend that sort of money don’t need any help from me !

So Christmas beckons to all...

Na zdorovie!

... and whatever else fits the bill

Happy Christmas to You!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Brexit and EU: Mind Your Language!

Good evening, class!

(All: good evening Jeremy, bonsoir, guten Abend etc)

Tonight let’s look at the difference between what words mean and what different people think they mean. A really good way to do this is to read the EU’s Treaty of Rome – after all, we’re never going to leave the EU.

Pliss, why you say that?

Because three Tory Prime Ministers have promised we will.

Now, if you’ll log on and go to you’ll see side-by-side translations in English, French and German – the EU’s Big Three. Got it?

In 1957 it was only six countries, and among their aims – see that section?  - was a famous phrase, ‘ever-closer union’. That’s the English version. What feelings, associations do you think English people have about the word ‘closer’?

Like, getting very fond of a girlfriend?

Yes, it’s a warm word, isn’t it? Anna, what’s the German translation there?

‘immer engeren Zusammenschluss’

And the word ‘eng’ in German means?

Vell Jeremy, it can mean ‘close’ but really I think more ‘tight’, like my clothes after Christmas.

Very good, Anna. In French, Danielle?

En français, ‘une unification politique plus vaste de l’Europe.’

‘Plus vaste’? That doesn’t sound tight or close. Why would that be?

No, it means bigger, wider – like, I don’t know, Napoléon’s empire?

And that idea still appeals to French people?

We like power and influence, grandeur, vous savez? Indépendance! We said to NATO we would have our own Bomb. We are happy to be in a Union, but only if we can run it.

Yes, Anna, you wished to say something?

For us it is different. Ve like to be together, like a big family. To share. ‘Eng’ is not all bad - if ve are closer, ve are also warmer und safer. Ze Romans never really conquered us, in our forests. For us it is not ‘la Gloire’, it is Bruderheit.


Brotherhood – you know, like ‘Alle Menschen werden Brüder’?

‘All men will become brothers’ – that’s Beethoven, isn’t it?

Nein, Schiller. Originally, ‘beggars vill become brother-princes.’ But it has become the anthem of the EU, nicht? That is vot ve stand for. Brotherhood…

-        -  But not equal brothers!


Brothers like Cain and Abel! Look at Greece today!

Hmm, going a bit far, Max, perhaps Jacob and Esau might be a better fit. But we’re not all Bible-readers here. Anybody think of a more contemporary analogy? Yes, Juan?

Phil and Grant Mitchell (chorus of ‘who?’)

Eastenders! The brothers, they are like love-hate, fight. In east London.

Filmed in Hertfordshire, actually, we built the Cockneys out of the Capital long ago. This isn’t going quite as I’d hoped. Any suggestions for another bit to compare? Yes, Max?

How about number five?

Which is?

‘Reduce the economic and social differences between the EEC’s various regions.’

Ah. Oh well. Anna, Danielle: same meaning in your languages? (Oui, ja.) Exactly the same. Okay, class, what have we learned so far? Yes, Ranjeet?

When you use different words to different people, it is to persuade. When you use the same words to everyone, it is to delude.

You know Ranjeet, I think you’ve gone as far as our class can take you. Anyone for a drink?

Friday, November 15, 2019

FRIDAY MUSIC: Eileen Ivers, by JD

Eileen Ivers is an Irish/American violinist. Born in New York she began playing fiddle/violin at the age of nine and over the years has progressed from traditional Irish fiddle playing to being perfectly at home in virtually every genre of music. As an example see the video below in which she is more than a match for the great American jazz violinist Regina Carter and the classical player Nadja Salerno Sonnenberg. (By the way, she also plays the banjo, and why not!)

On her website, The New York Times describe her as "the Jimi Hendrix of the violin.
A ridiculous comparison. She is a virtuoso on violin, Hendrix was flash and mediocre even by rock's low standards.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

BREXIT: The Political Declaration - Fifty Shades Of Yea

The post below has also been published on The Conservative Woman:

The Political Declaration contains divorce terms so amicable that the opposing parties ought to get a room. Yet if the General Election forecasts are correct, the next Conservative government should have a majority that will let Boris Johnson radically revise the WA/PD or scrap them altogether. Will he do it?

Should he do it?

The hubristic European Union is already gloating that May’s Withdrawal Agreement hasn’t been modified, merely clarified. I haven’t yet studied the documentation, so I can’t say – but then, how many MPs and spads have done so? How many, rather, are like Douglas Hurd at Maastricht, who jested (and was it a jest?) ‘Now we’ve signed it – we had better read it’? Still, they’ve had two years to go through what was 599 pages and is now only 541 – not much longer than an airport bonkbuster; and it’s their job, after all.

The Political Declaration, on the other hand, is merely 26 pages in both the original and revised versions; the length of a short story. Even the layman can read that, and what a story it is!

This sketch of the future relationship between the divorcees is half lawyer and half lover. In the first version the word ‘ambitious’ appears seven times, ‘close’ sixteen, ‘to the extent possible’ (and similar phrases) thirteen, and ‘align/ment’ four. One feels the bonds being tied already. So masterful… and so yielding!

And the atmospherics are not much changed in the revision. Yes, the Irish backstop has been taken out – including the twice-used commanding phrase ‘on a permanent footing’ (how did that get past May’s negotiators?), but disputes are still to go to the EU’s Court of Justice for a ‘binding ruling’ (tighter, please!)

Here’s an odd detail: the original spoke of ‘administrative cooperation in customs’ but left out VAT. Not insignificant: we sent £3.1 billion (pre-rebate) to theEU last year, which is like winning the 10 biggest-ever jackpots on the Euromillions, twice over, annually. Oops, or not?

As for the UK-fisheries-strangling ‘level playing field’, here’s the new (longer) paragraph – even if, like me, you’re not legally trained, how many carefully ambiguous – and entangling - phrases can you find in it?

‘Given the Union and the United Kingdom's geographic proximity and economic interdependence, the future relationship must ensure open and fair competition, encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field. The precise nature of commitments should be commensurate with the scope and depth of the future relationship and the economic connectedness of the Parties. These commitments should prevent distortions of trade and unfair competitive advantages. To that end, the Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters. The Parties should in particular maintain a robust and comprehensive framework for competition and state aid control that prevents undue distortion of trade and competition; commit to the principles of good governance in the area of taxation and to the curbing of harmful tax practices; and maintain environmental, social and employment standards at the current high levels provided by the existing common standards. In so doing, they should rely on appropriate and relevant Union and international standards, and include appropriate mechanisms to ensure effective implementation domestically, enforcement and dispute settlement. The future relationship should also promote adherence to and effective implementation of relevant internationally agreed principles and rules in these domains, including the Paris Agreement.’

Back to Johnson’s revise/scrap option. Can he do it?

Fair stands the wind for Boris: Corbyn's Labour Party has culled smoothie crypto-Marxist Blairites - who unlike him have actually held power and foisted real constitutional damage on us - but also repelled Old Labour by openly espousing a Marxism that would have Cassandra crying in the streets. Accordingly, Electoral Calculus predicts (as at 9 November) a 96-seat Conservative majority. This is not counting the pact offered by The Brexit Party (and favoured by TCW readers) that could split the working-class Labour vote in many key seats.

So far, Johnson rejects Farage's offer, but the risk he is taking is that enough traditional Conservative voters will understand and reject the hurriedly-made-over May deal to split their vote, too. Should they be convinced that Corbyn has no chance whatever, then anything could happen in the polling booths.

If Johnson wants a 1997-scale landslide, then like Blair he should shun presumption and over-engineer his campaign. There is still time: unless I'm mistaken, a new Parliament might pass a fresh Meaningful Vote in favour of an ironclad real deal on the slipway, instead of launching a paper boat into a stormy sea with BJ's huff-and-puff in its sails.

In short, the choice on 12 December is not between Citizen Smith and the Blond Bombshell; it's between Bullish Boris and Blowhard Boris. If he doesn't deliver Brexit, it won't be because he didn't have the chance. And then we shall know him.

Friday, November 08, 2019


You may not be familiar with the name Amos Lee but he is an extremely talented young singer/songwriter and fully deserves a place in our mini hall of musical fame here at Broad Oak Magazine. You will understand why when you listen to the selection included here.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Walking protohumans started in Europe?

According to research published in Nature, the first bipedal ancestor of modern humans may have come from southern Europe. Dubbed Danuvius Guggenmosi, the remains were found in Bavaria and date from c. 11.5 million years ago.

Only a few weeks before this discovery, another research team speculated that a 10-million-year-old pelvis belonging to another species called Rudapithecus Hungaricus may have enabled it to walk upright, too.

Before now, says the Daily Mail's report, the earliest evidence of two-legged hominids came from Kenya - the 6 million-year-old remains of Orrorin Tugenensis -  and some fossilised footprints on the island of Crete.

"The discovery of Danuvius may shatter the prevailing notion of how bipedalism evolved: that perhaps 6 million years ago in East Africa a chimpanzee-like ancestor started to walk on two legs after environmental changes created open landscapes and savannahs where forests once dominated."

So rather than coming from Africa, it's possible that some of humanity's ancestors may have gone there before re-migrating northwards.

Cross-posted on The Polynesian Times:

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Remainers softening? A straw in the wind

Two years ago, the world-famous broadcaster David Attenborough was comparing opposition to the EU to spitting in each other's faces, and 'criticised the decision to put leaving the European Union to a referendum because people had not been given “the facts"'.

More recently, without publicly declaring himself a Remainer or Leaver (and that in itself indicates consciousness of enduring public division), he has said:

“I think that the irritation of the ways in which the European community has interfered with people’s lives on silly levels or silly issues has irritated a lot of people who don’t actually understand what the advantages and the disadvantages are.”  ...

“They’re just fed up with somebody over there who doesn’t speak their language, telling him how much money they’ve got to charge for tomatoes or something silly.”

Asked if he was more of a Brexiteer than a Remainer, Sir David said he believed “there had to be a change, one way or another”.

It's interesting that he understands that there may indeed be disadvantages in our EU membership, and that the EU attempts to micromanage in a counterproductive way.

I read this as a sign that at least part of the Establishment is becoming aware that the Referendum result was not merely a flash in the pan and that there is much settled feeling against the European project.

Granted, in the quotation above the speaker seems to say - as so many Remainers said, immediately after the vote and persistently from then on, that such people 'don't actually understand' the issues (though I really don't see much clear, logic- and fact-based argument for the advantages, from Remainers).

But I sense a shift. And I think the traffic is more this way than that.

This post also appears on All About Brexit:

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

All About Brexit: new blog under construction

I think it's becoming clear that Brexit is going to be a long-drawn-out process, even after (or rather, because of) the "deal" that PM Johnson seems set to push through Parliament and the EU.

There's plenty of detailed academic-type discussion available online, but I think there is a gap in the market for a more simple, user-friendly vade mecum. So I am working on a blog that will provide information, links to documents and websites etc and act as a plain guide to the issues and history.

I would like to show both sides of the argument, but I wonder whether, like me, you have found it difficult to find sources that make the case for Remain anything like as thoroughly as the many proponents of Leave? So although - on the whole - I think we should leave the EU, it would be helpful to have links to logical and factual arguments from Remainers.

Your suggestions are warmly welcomed - can be an O/T comment on any post here or on the new blog, All About Brexit:


Saturday, November 02, 2019

Eco Loonery Addendum, by Wiggiatlarge

Shortly after my post on Eco Loonery was posted, two of the most cynical statements were issued by the government. Two aims can be gleaned from these measures and neither is for the benefit of the country, only for themselves.

Firstly they announced a halt to fracking amid fears of earthquakes. The fact no earthquakes have emanated from fracking sites world wide gives credibility to Jeremy Corbyn's statement, of all people. This is an election stunt. Why we should sit on 400 years of coal and shale gas but buy expensive Russian gas is a complete mystery. We are evermore going down the road of expensive and unreliable energy with wind and sun as the main suppliers.

I can only assume with no real evidence of earthquakes, just unfounded fears, that votes in the area with an election in the offing are more important than future independent energy supplies. Why are we not investing in clean coal and gas and preferring to buy in supplies as we are with gas and nuclear power from France? We are at the mercy of pricing over which we have no control. Madness.

The second item is even more daft. It would appear that Extinction Rebellion's desire to have "citizens' assemblies" to dictate or advise on eco policies has been given the green light, by the same government! 30,000 people will be asked at random if they wish to participate and then people will be selected to put forward their views.

Thirty thousand would seem like a large number but is a very small segment of the population at large.

The obvious and deliberate flaw in this is that you can bet no one who is not a climate change believer will be selected. So the likelihood is that those on the assembly platform will be almost certainly rabid eco loons as they will all be pushing to be selected, whereas others will not bother and the so called denier faction will be filtered out. We will then have XR actually pushing their agenda through a supposedly democratic means which of course it won't be.

You would think a government responsible for treating the country with contempt for three and a half years and rising would start to see the light but no, reverting to type and ignoring the people and giving in to minorities whatever the issue is now de riguer it seems.

Can we do anything ? Well voting them all out would be a start, but it will not happen. We seem to have an elite that is determined to ruin this country in so many ways, and they are succeeding.

More Eco Loonery, by Wiggiatlarge

At this moment in time it seems that every Brexit report, ad nauseam, is matched by another launch of "save the world for the children" or alternatively another green measure, some think tank backed by government (our) money has come up with to further ensure more penury for the little people in the not too distant future, usually following some new report of a climate model that spells out doom for all, yet no climate model has been correct on anything.

Naturally all these schemes come with the approval badge from those who either gain from it financially or find comfort in doing the ‘right’ thing regardless of consequences they will never have to endure.

I notice that any ‘good’ news on the sustainable front is given priority in the news. A report that for the first time sustainable energy provided more than 50% of the total needs omitted to tell that the quarter they were referring to was the three months of a very hot summer and the longest days when demand was at its lowest; of course when those still overcast drab and very cold winter days come come along and the sustainables only provide zilch there is no headline, only the threat of power cuts, which neatly brings me to the next nonsense in the eco world.

The 2050 target for zero emissions cannot possibly be reached with our current infrastructure. The National Grid report here talks of the need for 85 gigawatts needed by 2050 as against 60 now. In the light that they can’t get a single new nuclear plant built in twenty years, that can never be achieved with a combination of running down coal-fired power stations and replacing them with the weather-reliant wind and solar systems. And none of the figures show any allowance for the expanding (forever) population: official figures say that the next ten years will bring in 3 million extra, enough for another 3 Birminghams alone, never mind the endless illegal migrants that are reckoned to be anything from 1 to 10 million according to which report you want to believe.

These are basic facts. Silly claims that smart meters will make an eight gigabyte saving are pie in the sky: there is no proof for that assumption and it is just another push to get control of your energy so they can decide what you get and what you pay, never believe anything else on that front. Smart meters give the power companies the ability to decide what you can have at a given time and ramp up the price during peak periods, like the motor car in whatever form that takes it will be priced to dampen demand and use, they will have no choice because of the lack of the right type of infrastructure.

This quote from a government minister on smart meters….

‘Eventually, residents would be able to choose real-time tariffs, to switch on appliances when energy is cheapest' - i.e. you can use your kettle and save money if you put it on at 1 o'clock in the morning, plus he gives a veiled threat to those who have not complied and sought to have smart meters fitted…..

‘Lord Duncan admitted there had been "hiccups along the road", but there were potentially "big incentives" for people to agree to a smart meter being fitted. He added that those who stuck with "relic meters" risked "very high" maintenance costs.’ There are so far no advantages in smart meters for the consumer,  all the advantages are for the supplier and the veiled threat is just that. What high maintenance costs? Or are they going to charge us an exorbitant rate for meter reading as you have failed to toe the government line?

Still we will all be able to travel by train when we are priced off the road….

The contrasting views on future needs were highlighted in a Times business report on the aviation industry, in which it was stated that world-wide the number of aircraft expected to be in operation by 2050 will have doubled to around 44,000 - interesting in the light of what we are told re travelling by air, could it be just us being stopped from flying as it appears no one else will be ! And certainly not those celebs who happily pose with the likes of XR (Extinction Rebellion) protestors to boost their green credentials while at the same time totally ignoring the same advice regards themselves. (The Guardian forecasts 48,000!)

Naturally the population explosion world-wide is left out of any energy plans, yet how can that be? Every extra person on the planet will require feeding and will have have an energy requirement. Both needs are now being strangled at source by the green lobby yet they believe this is good for us, the same people who claim we are at fault as a prime industrial nation for the ‘horrors’ of climate change - which we aren’t - also benefited and are where they are in the pecking order because of the industrial revolution started in this country.

An interesting short video on where the population is going from the beginning of man on this earth or at least from when significant numbers had established:

Unless another form of propulsion is advanced as with hydrogen to become practical the EV (electric vehicle) will become the status quo, and I don’t oppose that; but with all the pressure from the green lobby groups and the energy companies who see the long term future and another fuel bonanza it cannot be done. The costings for the infrastructure involved are enormous - one estimate showed around 180 billion for the charging infrastructure - and we already lag far behind many other western nations in that respect.

The retail price of EVs is simply not on. Very little R&R is required to produce ICE (internal combustion engine) cars, yet despite manufacturers' claims of huge investment, electric motors have been around longer than the combustion engine, and still a recent report gave a figure of around £800-900 for an electric motor to power an average EV. Electric motors require no expensive gearbox and very few engine ancillaries, only the battery is expensive and the price there has plummeted as they become main line; so why the ridiculous cost? To which we know the answer: as with all 'new' technology the initial launch period is where manufacturers  make their money, as with e.g. mobile phones and cameras.

No one yet has given a solution to the recycling of the enormous amount of batteries that will start to end their useful life in the near future; not just car batteries but the already surging popularity of cordless, battery-powered tools and appliances. Anyone looking at the battery collection points in supermarkets sees overflowing containers of just the small batteries used in items like phones etc. The thought of car batteries being on that scale makes the mind boggle on that scale and as I've said, apart from mouthings in some quarters no evidence of a solution has appeared.

One of the more interesting and ludicrous aspects of all this Greta Hamburger attack on everyone to 'save the planet' has been people calling out the hypocrisy spouted by resource-wasteful celebs who then back track to the position that although they carry on doing what they do, they have warned the rest of us. A typical statement came from Lewis Hamilton of all people, who will no doubt claim that the ridicule heaped on him is because he is black or at least half black. This is what he said.

"It's not easy as we're travelling the world and our carbon footprint is higher than the average homeowner who lives in one city," said Hamilton. "That doesn't mean you should be afraid to speak out for positive change."

Hamilton used his Instagram feed last week to say he felt "like giving up on everything", that the world was "messed up" and to ask people to follow his example in taking up a plant-based diet to help the environment.”

So in his case eating beans makes his air travel and driving cars that guzzle fuel perfectly OK. "Bizarre" doesn’t cover it. 'Give up on everything' - we shall see, that is one of those statements like, “I will leave the country if we exit the EU”:  it never happens,  and he is far from alone. Most of the XR leaders have been found to be a long way from following their own diktat, but it was forever thus.

It could be that all the above is not worth worrying about anyway, just the demographic part. It might well be the case that those third world countries that are expanding at these alarming rates will simply decant to the west in numbers that are never sustainable and we all go back to third world living, something else there seems to be scant concern about in the minds of those who govern us.

Mad Max, anyone?