‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

WINE WEEKEND: My Cellar and a Conundrum, by Wiggia

Not me, I might add, but an old friend in an Australian winery.
I was in my cellar, actually a converted inspection pit in my garage, sorting out my wine bottles. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that all this hoarding at my time of life has a down side: I may never reach the last bottle before I pop my clogs. We all like to think we can cheat the taxman and the grim reaper by spending everything before we go, but there is a snag: when will we go? Relying on averages is notoriously flawed, after all there is nothing to stop me falling over tomorrow, or on the other hand I could  keep on for a number of years.

All sorts of factors are involved in coming to some conclusion. Family longevity is for me a difficult one as my mother's side (she lived to 100) go on forever whereas my father's side all died young (he was 68) and his father similarly. Which side do I take after, whose genes are dominant, which line fought off serious illnesses the better - obviously my mum's line; so do I draw a mean average of the two halves or do I wait to be mown down by a bus because I was too slow on the aged people's crossing outside the care home?






All of this information has to be dissected and assimilated, then throw in the deteriorating health service that keeps many of us going longer than we should, deduct time for that, then go back to the Office of National Statistics where you can put in age at present sex etc. And they say I could/should live to 88, yet the same site says at this moment in time the average age in the UK for a man is 79.2 years; this last figure is worrying, not because if true it means I don’t have long with this mortal coil but it leaves very little time to consume my cellar. It has been suggested I get help, and I have had several offers! consuming the cellar with that scenario, but I am a greedy sod and hope to do the job on my own; what a conundrum.



I also have another first world problem that muddies the water somewhat: I have been fortunate in that the last two properties we lived in had a cellar which is where the build up of bottles got under way and here I got lucky with the inspection pit. The likelihood if we move - as we have been trying to for some time - of getting another house with cellar is remote these days, so a wine cooler of probably 160-200 bottles will suffice. That still leaves circa 250 to consume by the time we move and that could be in two months, a year, whatever; it all gets very involved.



Ah, joy…

As an aside, there are as many versions of wine cellars and wine storage solutions as there are wines - well not quite, but there are a lot. Most involve spending as above large amounts of the laughing lettuce but cheaper solutions are available, apart from wine fridges which themselves for a decent quality and reasonable capacity can get rather expensive. A larder fridge can be adapted by altering the thermostat to around a maximum of 55 degrees, in fact I have never been able to see why wine coolers are so expensive, they are after all little different from a standard fridge and there are plenty of cheap options with those:  corner of a garage can be partitioned off and insulated with Celotex or similar plus ceiling and floor and a small air conditioning unit installed; you save a fortune over custom-made ones, which start at around £10k for those spiral-in-the-ground ones.

https://www.newswebzone.com/build-your-own-garage-wine-cellar/

One word of warning when converting a part of a garage: by nature many garages get very hot so one that is in the sun all day and especially a flat roof version is not a good idea. If the air con breaks down your wine can boil, not good; but a shaded one preferably with a pitched roof is fine.
And even under the stairs, if not in a house hot spot, can be racked and insulated for little cost. Many of the cheaper options are more than adequate for all but the finest wines, as they are not kept that long anyway. I was lucky with my inspection pit: all it cost was the insulation for the roof and the racking which I already had. Of course, if you are fortunate to have a house with a cellar you are quids in.

Oh and by the way, storing bottles upright was always thought to be a taboo, but if they are screw cap it makes no difference and recent research has shown the corks do not dry out as thought if bottles are stored upright and again over relatively short periods it is an irrelevance.

A hot tip: if sharing the garage with a wine storage area and a car, don’t drink and drive; it could be very expensive in the wine department and red wine on the upholstery is not easy to remove and we don’t want that, do we?

Some people do manage to spend all their wordly gains by the moment the grim reaper appears. Rock Hudson famously did leaving only a few hundred dollars of cash allegedly, though his estate itself was worth millions and was left in trust and to his male lover., but these are rare events; he just got lucky. It is a notoriously difficult trick to carry off, the law of averages is not that compliant, so a start has to be made.

It has to be said the problem is self-inflicted, buying wine does have that ability to become somewhat addictive. Many wine lovers dress it up as buying for the future: buy now, the prices only go up! If you don’t like the wine you can always sell, but to be honest much of it is an ego trip, it’s no different to owning a nice car or a painting, the difference being you cannot drink either of those and on the other hand once drunk the value has gone which is why so many people never drink their collections, they become a focus for discussion among other ‘collectors’, hours spent discussing the merits of x over y and which year trumped the last great vintage. It’s all a bit surreal, but it does have a fascination, mainly because it is a natural product and the permutations in style and quality are endless as with every vintage it all changes again.







The 88 years life expectancy prediction is an easy one. I carry on drinking my cellar, currently north of 400 bottles of nature's finest, though much reduced from its peak of around 700, and before anyone states that is excessive, it is small beer in the collector wine drinker stakes (small beer, I said that!) as I sold off all the very expensive stuff in recognition that I would never make it to a satisfactory conclusion. At 88 years I will probably not be drinking much other than orange juice through a straw towards the end but even so if I run out I simply buy more. The lower figure of 79.2 though is worrying: it means I will have to drink 2.47 bottles a day to beat that deadline; well, I'm prepared if needs be to give it a go and hope my liver holds out; it is a tall order so I think I am going to have to settle for the former figure: carry on as normal and keep my fingers crossed.

https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/10-of-the-worlds-largest-wine-collections/

It would be nice to think that should my prediction be found to be wildly inaccurate I could be entombed like the ancient Egyptians in a cellar like above with all the wine intact - and don’t forget the glasses and a corkscrew - to take on my voyage to Valhalla*; it’s like one of those wonderful dreams one has and then you wake up!

With problems with the Coronavirus, the resultant damage to the economy and the NHS going to pot , being governed by idiots, seeing the whole world order imploding before my eyes, who would have believed there could be a bigger problem and it would rear its ugly head at this time, but it has and it has to be dealt with one way or another: cheers!

______________________________________

*Aaru, for Ancient Egyptians (Ed.) Also known as the Field of Reeds - but NOT straws!

Friday, August 28, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Doo Wop, by JD

More nostalgia and looking back to the beginnings of what became known as 'street corner symphonies' when youngsters would sing a-capella harmonies on the streets of their neighbourhood. The beginning of the 'doowop' style of music.

Because it was a-capella the doo wop and nonsense lyrics acted as 'fills' replacing musical instruments thus helping the melodic flow of the music. Instruments/orchestrations were added when these groups made it into the recording studios but without sacrificing the added colour of the doo wop lyricism. It is how musical styles develop and change over the years and this new style was a progression from previous years.

The style probably began with the very popular vocal harmony group The Ink Spots in the 1930s. The first video below is 'I miss you so' by Cats and the Fiddle which could easily be mistaken for a 1950s record and the rest, as they say, is history. and briefly encapsulated in the other videos, roughly in chronological order.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doo-wop

















Sunday, August 23, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Mr Mole, by Wiggia


A very amusing story was told to me yesterday which I sent to friends who I thought would appreciate it;  it made me think it would be a good preamble to a more general tale of the little buggers above.

The story is this……

“I went for a haircut this morning and my hairdresser told me a wonderful story about his neighbour and his new fake lawn.

The neighbour decided they would have a fake plastic lawn installed as part of the landscaping in their garden.

All was completed and the couple came over to ask the hairdresser if he wouldn't mind keeping an eye on the garden and water the numerous pots, fine he said no problem as they do it every year for them anyway.

First few days all went well and on the fifth day the hairdresser's wife said she would pop over before she went to work. Five minutes later she returns and says you really ought to come and have a look at this, so over he goes. Upon entering the back garden he sees what all the fuss is about: the newly laid fake lawn looks like the Somme, all hillocks and trenches. 'What the hell,' says the husband and then realises what has happened: moles; they have tunnelled under the fake lawn and tried to surface but couldn't, leaving the place wrecked.

The installers returned to make good but much of the fake lawn had been so stretched by the moles efforts to surface it was unusable and it remains like that while they seek a solution.”

There must be a moral to that story, probably as most have said, ‘Don’t mess with Nature as it always wins’.

There appear to be two main ways that artificial grass is laid and the ‘softer’ version must have been used in this case.

By coincidence last year my neighbour over the road had a similar ‘uprising.’ Venturing onto his crazy paved patio one morning he was confronted by piles of earth: a mole had tried to surface and had succeeded by getting between the pavers and pushing up the grouting. What was amazing in this case is the garden is enormous, three and a half acres going down to the river bank, shades of Wind in the Willows, and though mole activity is seen in the softer soil near the river there have never been any signs near the house and there were no signs leading to the patio; that was some dig.


I've had them in more than one garden myself including the current one. They - or he, they are solitary animals - don’t like noise or vibration so normally come up in the quieter areas, but that never lasts. Slowly they expand their tunnel system looking for worms and they got to my veg patch; time for action. I genuinely do not like killing moles, their strange subterranean lives are a miracle of industry and I would much prefer to leave them alone, but we have all seen those roadside stretches of grass that look like a scene from WWI battlefields and the time to strike back arrives.


Whatever method you use to kill moles it is not a pleasant one. These days mole traps are the universal way and setting them correctly is very important, otherwise the little buggers go round them, under them or ignore them; their sense of smell is such that you should use gloves to handle the traps so as not to contaminate them with your scent, and patience is definitely a virtue.

Years ago you could buy gas pellets that poisoned the moles in their tunnels, but are now only available to professionals. You had to find all the openings by putting burning oily rags down the tunnel and seeing where it emerged, then cap those exits, leaving one for the smoke pellets; but the pellets were banned and traps are the only way today.

Various sonic devices are sold that claim to get rid of moles but the reality is, as with certain castor oil-based repellents, they only either work for a short period or simply move the problem to another part of the garden.

I did have signs of a return early this year but the two or three hills never developed into anything else so I was spared a repeat performance. As the garden backs onto a golf course the logic is they went there but it's unlikely as golf courses can use insecticides to rid the ground of the moles' dietary source - worms etc - or compacting the ground, which collapses their tunnels.

Like my neighbour there is another small river that runs at the back of the golf course and an adjoining recreation area. Moles are present on the river bank but there are never any signs in between there and my garden, another very long dig if that is how they get here.

There are those who are sympathetic to the plight of the mole in these circumstances and state they are good for the soil, aerating and even rotovating it in their search for food; all well and good, but to use that soil you still have to eradicate Mr Mole.

Moles don’t feed on plants: they are carnivorous, feeding on invertebrates that fall into their system of tunnels. Any plant damage they cause is incidental to their lifestyle.

If you're inclined to get up early, you can catch them live by putting a shovel in the tunnel behind the mole when you see movement and catching him as he comes to the surface; alternatively, use a container in the tunnel and use the spade method to drive him into it. If you're lucky and have caught the mole you are faced with 'where do I take him/them?' as nobody wants them; you have a problem of disposal. Only once have I caught live moles; it really is hard work and very time-consuming; I then drove them out to a country lane and deposited them in a ditch.                                                                                 

 "A ride in the country - not quite what I had in mind!"


Above: a very good example of having got rid of them (maybe) in one area in the background, only to see the emergence of the mole hills elsewhere.

The battle with nature continues unabated - good luck!                                                                                                     

Saturday, August 22, 2020

SATURDAY ESSAY: The Undiscovered Country, by JD

The original of this piece was first posted on 24th April 2011 at Nourishing Obscurity. What follows is a substantially revised and updated version based on new information and personal experiences during the intervening nine years.


"The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
  No traveller returns"

The title is taken from Hamlet's famous soliloquy in which he contemplates life and death and whether he is up to the task of avenging his father.

Shakespeare uses this passage to illustrate Hamlet's confused state of mind as he ponders how, or even if, he can carry out this task. He is clearly not thinking straight because the play opens with him being visited by the ghost of his father and that is a return of sorts.

If Hamlet had read Plato he would have known of the story, recounted in the tenth book of The Republic, in which the warrior Er, killed in battle, returns to tell of the nature of the afterlife, and the consequent importance of wisdom and justice to the long-term health of the soul.

Many people over the years have taken Plato's tale of Atlantis at face value and tried to establish the exact location of the famous city. "Atlantis discovered" is a regular headline in the press but it is curious that many believe the myth of Atlantis to be a true story and yet nobody, as far as I know, has tried to establish the veracity of the myth of Er.

Why is that? Are we so enthralled by scientific materialism, the only valid belief system acceptable to the modern mind, that nobody dares to think the unthinkable - what if it were true?

In 1975 Dr. Raymond Moody, a psychiatrist, published a book called "Life After Life" He interviewed 150 people who had experienced what he called Near Death Experiences. (The book went on to sell more than 13 million copies) The conclusions drawn from the book suggest that the myth of Er was no myth.This below is a brief excerpt from a 90 minute interview of Moody by Jeffrey Mishlove.



Since that time many other medical professionals, particularly those who deal with cardiac arrest and other trauma, have made similar studies and reached similar conclusions. Cardiologist Dr Michael Sabom has written three books on the subject. In his books he gives many examples of people who have had a near death experience or NDE.
http://www.ukapologetics.net/07/sabom.htm

Dr Bruce Greyson of the Department of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia has also done a great deal of research on the subject.
 https://www.theepochtimes.com/interview-bruce-greyson-on-researching-near-death-experiences-at-the-university-of-virginia_1368200.html

Dr Kenneth Ring has also written a book after many years of research - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2201476.Heading_Toward_Omega

Within the NDERF web site https://www.nderf.org/ , Dr. Jeffrey Long decribes the typical NDE-

“NDEs are quite varied, but the consistency of the NDE elements (OBE experience, tunnel, light, meeting other beings, etc.) is striking. There is no plausible biological explanation of NDEs. There is no other human experience so dramatic, shared by so many people, and so relatively consistent in its elements. The preceding suggests faith in the validity of NDE accounts is the most reasonable conclusion from the evidence.”

The OBE or out of body experience is not new.
Here is St.Paul's account of his visit to heaven (in 2 Cor.12):

1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Another account of a journey to the post-mortem world is found in Bede's Ecclesiastical History
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/38326/38326-h/38326-h.html
in which he tells of Drythelm's 'death' and awakening the following day-
http://escholarship.org/uc/item/8pz3g97j

And in this book Dr. Carol Zaleski researches medieval NDEs and makes comparison with modern accounts:
https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195056655/

A recent account of the out of body or near death experience comes from Dr Eben Alexander whose own NDE occurred in 2008. What makes this account different is that Dr Alexander is a consultant neurosurgeon and thus has a great deal of knowledge and practical experience of how the brain and mind functions or how it is presumed to function in theory. His own experience led him to question his own previous understanding of neurology. He set down his 'journey' and subsequent thoughts in the book 'Proof of Heaven.'
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Proof-Heaven-Neurosurgeons-Journey-Afterlife/dp/0749958790/





There is a great deal more to say about this, especially how research into the more bizarre aspects of quantum theory appear to validate the idea of reality being nothing more than an illusion, the implications of which are that life and death are illusions also

In the book 'Irreducible Mind' https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7879392-irreducible-mind the authors draw the conclusion that quantum theory has overturned the traditional understanding of Newtonian physics and according to Henry Stapp "...the fundamental ideas of classical physics were not just limited but wrong!" (page 611 of the book if you wish to confirm it.)
https://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/scientists/stapp/

We are living in a hologram and the post mortem world is a holographic continuum of the present world according to Michael Talbot, author of 'The Holographic Universe': https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/319014.The_Holographic_Universe

Last word must go, as usual, to Shakespeare when he has Hamlet say -

'There are more things in heaven and earth... 
  Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'

Friday, August 21, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Dion Dimucci, by JD

I have been daydreaming and reminiscing, looking back at the music of my youth. Happy days! Or even happy daze.....
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_the_United_Kingdom_(1950s)

It was the beginning of 'rock and roll' coming over from the USA and among the early pioneers of the new sound were teenagers, white and black, who served their 'apprenticeship' singing on street corners in the inner cities.

Among the first who were commercially successful were Dion and the Belmonts and their first hit record was 'I Wonder Why' in 1958. This year, 2020, Dion released an album called 'Blues With My Friends' That is an astonishingly long career in the music business. He is now 81 years old but you would not know it listening to him now. His voice is as strong and as clear as it was all those years ago.
https://www.history-of-rock.com/dion_dimucci.htm

From the comments beneath the records/songs from the 1950s there is a strong feeling of nostalgia for that era even from those who were born too late to remember it directly:

"I love the 50s so much, it gives me a feeling like I'm home again, it feels like I used to live back then.. can anyone relate?"

"Remember listening to this song in 1259 when I was 5000 years old, you kids just don't know what it was like then."

"Dion has been married to the same woman since 1963 and is a Christian..he still writes songs the man is a class act."

"This era of music makes cleaning your house or any chore like putting together furniture a breeze. It's near impossible to listen to this stuff and not have a pep in your step!"

"Why is it that we all have the same nostalgic feeling for these times, even though most of us never even experienced it ? It's so magical."
---------------------------------------------------------------

















Monday, August 17, 2020

*** Sad news: death of 'Raedwald' ***

I am very sorry to report that a friend of 'Raedwald' http://raedwald.blogspot.com/ (real name Michael Neill) has been in touch today via the comment form on Broad Oak Magazine (awaiting moderation to protect the informant's personal information) to tell me that Mike has passed away. His friend is asking for information so he can get in touch with next of kin etc in England - is anybody here able to help?

UPDATE

Mike's brother has got in touch and matters are now in hand. Thanks to all who have expressed their condolences here, I am sure that there are very many others who feel the same way. I have passed Mike's brother's email address to James Higham in case you wish him to forward a message.

Nick Drew adds:

Thanks for letting us all know this sad news, Sackers.

He'll be greatly missed. I've put up a tribute here.
http://www.cityunslicker.co.uk/2020/08/raedwald-rip.html

Another tribute from James Higham:

https://nourishingobscurity.uk/2020/08/thoughts-on-raedwald/

Saturday, August 15, 2020

SATURDAY ESSAY: Is Clownworld The New Normal? by Wiggia

Wiggia is in full rant this week - with so many targets it's a machine-gun approach!
________________________________

It is difficult to remember a time when so much was going on in the world and so much was wrong, from the destroying of economies for a pandemic that isn’t one, to the hijacking of a black man's death for a political movement that could not give a fig about black lives, to a climate change scam that has evolved from a protest about how we as humans have destroyed the planet into a movement headed by a young girl who has no idea what she is talking about but nations and particularly politicians listen to.

We can add the politicking going on here for years over Brexit, the left's abysmal response to Trump's winning in’16, the Gilets Jaunes in France hated by the ruling class, Italy riven by endless political groups who all turn out to be the same, Germany bowing to the Greens and shutting down all nuclear power plants and then when the lights started going out starting building coal-fired stations, China ignoring everyone over everything and Russia looking on probably in total amazement.

Mad magazine's Alfred E Neuman



BoJo

                                                   
 JC aka Steptoe,,,
As far as I’m concerned Alfred E Neuman could take the reins of world government and we would not be able to see the difference. The last four years - and I am fully aware that this escalating nonsense has been going on since 1997 - the last four years have seen even more escalating madness both in Parliaments world-wide and at home, and a population that has not a clue about most things but will subvert the rule of law or protest and riot to, in their words, ‘change things’. When asked, the vast majority have no idea what they want changed but change must come; if you quoted Lampedusa's comment "For things to remain the same, everything must change",  they still would not know what they are 'campaigning' (a polite term for what they are currently doing) for.

And as if this was not enough we have people arguing over statues, certain words in the English language, white supremacy, gender neutral toilets, gay marriage (David Cameron's only claim to fame), cultural appropriation (never have understood how someone using all that the West has provided can object to having an Indian war bonnet as a logo for a football team and think it demeaning), and whether we should call someone he/him she/her tu/vous you thee thou it they or just tell them to f*** off, though the last hasn’t got a box to tick; and yet words like ‘conflict of interest’ and 'consequences' and 'accountable' seem to have vanished as if by magic.

Christianity in many countries has no status any more. Even Bishops say nasty things about that which they preach and spout political statements from the pulpit. Meanwhile in Turkey power-mad Erdogan could not wait to get the Church of Saint Sofia changed back to a mosque so he could garner extra votes from the radicals and managed to pull in 350,000 people into Istanbul for the first religious service in its new guise there, and in the process caused a surge in the coronavirus which included his vice president who went down with it - schadenfreude on that one.

Back here the virus has spawned a whole new world of misinformation with government groups headed by discredited advisors using fear tactics set out in a SAGE document on ways to frighten the populace into obeying instructions on self-isolating, mask-wearing, whatever, and succeeding in actually frightening to death a large percentage of the population. Orwellian methods at best. All in the best interests of saving the NHS from itself while people with a whole range of diseases that kill you are denied treatment - in fact, the NHS has conveniently found a way post-virus of getting rid of the nuisance of patients by not treating any.

If you add in the draconian threats and actions to deal with very small outbreaks (as e.g. in New Zealand: population 5 million, 4 new cases) we really are at the beginning of a fascist state. Worse, the poor souls trapped in their bedsits had to endure videos of dancing nurses and kneeling policemen on Tik Tok as the preferred entertainment while over the pond the same entrapped souls could watch liberated groups ransacking stores - Nike trainers to the fore again as the preferred loot - and having looted, set up no-go areas so they could shoot one another unimpeded by such non necessities as a Police Force; police forces are so yesterday!

Meanwhile the MSM have a field day with such important ongoing events such as a black MP being stopped by police for a traffic violation, an excuse to say all police stops of black people in high crime areas should be halted because it ain't fair; after all, black on black violence is just a passing fad, ignore it, and anyway 'police should know who I am' even though the car had tinted windows.

I see some US States have a ruling that no one will be prosecuted for stealing anything under $900 from a shop! And there is an unwritten ruling in this country that the police are too busy to pursue shoplifters or charge them for anything under £200. So now you don’t have to loot, there really is free stuff out there.

In other areas such as the behaviour of some elements in the Muslim community the police, officials and the media are muzzled and hobbled by political correctness and woe betide any politician who breaks cover. In France hundreds of churches and other religious buildings have been burned or desecrated https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2019/april/churches-desecrated-in-ongoing-attacks-across-europe (odd that arson was swiftly ruled out in the case of the Notre Dame blaze, when a year later the seat of the fire had still not been examined) while here mosques and Islamic centres of (imho) the most hideous designs go up all over the country (and people complain about Bauhaus brutalism!) - all of which fits in with the ever smaller nondescript boxes being ‘built’ and sold as houses these days.

With the police face-painting and refusing to come out to burglaries, the NHS reduced to a phone service with all the options available apart from treatment, we now have a government wanting to ban advertising for fast food as the obesity rate climbs yet gives £10 vouchers out to help the same food industry that provides fast food, a push for free school dinners is on the table and food banks are getting bigger, suggesting we have a problem on the calorie front or ever more people want free stuff.

Talking of free stuff, free speech has become, well, not so free. Many academics on the Left want words removed from dictionaries, words replaced with something more inclusive. and people that use these same words without realising the harm and hurt they cause banned altogether from speaking anywhere. Most universities and public bodies go along with this, including the police who spend a lot of time on the internet looking for these words and then apologising to everyone for the rare occasion of doing their job in other areas.

Other areas include riots, the current BLM protests engineered to erupt after a black criminal died at police hands mirrors on a bigger scale our own Tottenham riots after a career criminal was shot dead some years back; it appears the police failed to apologise for the latter but I am sure a few stop and search gaffes can fill the gap until the whole of the Police ’service’ is diverse (they are working on it), at which point the protestors will have a problem proving institutional racism; but I am sure when that day comes there will be another cause célèbre to latch onto ('free everything', probably.)

Returning to the US we have the unedifying sight of the Republicans managing to outdo our own Labour party by putting up for the Presidency of the most powerful nation on earth a man who forgets himself who then in turn chooses or pretends to choose a running mate that is a nasty version of our own national treasure (Miss Diane someone who has managed to elevate herself by horizontal means) to what could be the Presidency as surely Sleepy Joe cannot see out the tenure in the White House if he gets there.

It gets ever more puzzling as to what is required to become a people's representative. Equality and diversity seem to be the two most obvious boxes to tick; ability not so much, as seen with Bojo who doesn’t appear to a have clue about anything - Brexit is his last chance to make a mark, we wait with bated breath, many with total bewilderment. Opposite him, Max Headroom makes quiet noises about nothing surrounded by the remains of what was a Labour party many years ago but now is a shambles of Corbyn cast-offs and newbie noise makers.

At the same time Bojo stuffs the Lords, now 830 expenses-furnished souls, with his failure of a brother, an IRA sympathiser, the former PM's husband (for being her husband I presume), Ian Botham for his support of Brexit (in which case there are another 17½ million of us eligible for Lords status), and Evgeny Lebedev a Russian newspaper oligarch and donor; plus the usual titles for the retired MPs who need some extra cash to add to their gold-plated pensions.

Bercow didn’t get his peerage and everyone is pleased about that, but I guarantee that when he has done his time on the naughty step and time has mellowed opinion he will be elevated. Elevation in his case is a must, not unlike the predilection of the French to appoint vertically challenged leaders who stand on boxes for group photographs or sit on horses if they are Napoleon, and are also short-tempered. And why do we always seem to get the short straw in the looks stakes with women MPs? Nothing sexist, just an observation, I shall get slaughtered for this. Belusconi manages in his time to fill the Italian parliament with ex-showgirls, a porn star and other arm candy, France has some of the smartest-dressed and best-looking women in their parliament and we get:

 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-53753481

I really don’t mind what anyone looks like if they are good at their job but in this case we don’t even get that and many more fill the same shoes. Might as well brighten the place up and have someone like this:



Exactly!

Frau Merkel despite everything is still the party leader over there and to all intents leads the EU as everything appears to have to go through her or be approved by her. The fact she is not a member of the EU Parliament or executive committee seems not to be a hurdle in getting what she wants for Germany ahead of everyone else (and I always thought thought the EU was a democratic body made up of various nations who decided things - where on earth did I get that idea?) Still, someone who said ‘multiculturalism has utterly failed’ and then opened the door to 1.1 million refugees is another to be listened to in times of need.

World wide groups have cottoned onto an area where there could be free money. After pulling a few statues down the same groups are demanding reparations from us the current citizens who have nothing to do with what went on 300 years ago. At this rate we should manage to get something for being under Roman rule for so long. Whereas we admire what the Romans left us with their skills in engineering and rule of law, the current protestors see no irony in protesting in a country that has given them everything they have or enabled them to do; of course their home countries having had a wonderful legacy left to them continue to blame us as they wreck everything we gave them including the ability to stand on their own two feet with the wealth of natural resources we opened up for them; no, it’s still our fault. Still, they have one abiding asset: corruption. Anyone who has been to Africa will have encountered corruption. They have turned it into an art form: monies just disappear into Swiss bank accounts, millions are stashed away in banks and properties world wide by politicians earning £20k a year but even that is our fault for encouraging them. At least we are following suit on all this: since the expenses scandal and the clamp down on our own MPs claiming for duck houses and bicycles and flipping homes, they have managed to circumvent that little problem by claiming even more - expenses are now way in excess of those in the scandal period and seemingly all above board! Quel surprise.

Even on a local level we have clowns dictating how our money should be spent. A local campaign is on its way to get speed cameras put up in our 20 mph zone street. The twenty zone is an almost complete failure and the pinch points and speed bumps result in in crashing skip lorries as they and builders' trailers go over the bumps, nob-head big-exhaust cars slowing because of their stupid body lowering and accelerating away from each one making more noise and pollution, and lunatic bikers (most of whom seem to have L plates) ignoring everything and the bigger bikes seeing it as challenge to see how fast they can go in a twenty zone; and for some strange reason it has got worse since the roads emptied after lock down.

I refuse to get involved this time as the whole thing has been stretched out with lies and general malfeasance for over six years with absolutely no progress. I have a folder of emails from all involved earlier; all lied then and will again. The police are against it, the County Council is against it, but the money is there and they won't let it be spent despite all wanting something done. The obvious way would to put the road back to a thirty zone so the police could not use the twenty zone get-out of 'it's only advisory', instal average speed cameras and get rid of the speed bumps (this last could surely be urged under our new environmental concerns re pollution.) I said all this right at the start but my pursuance resulted in the local district councillor (when I called him out over lying in his election manifesto) accusing me of harassment because I sent him three emails on the matter in a year. So they can all 'go and do one' this time. The same councillor who has represented the area for what appears decades has two outstanding achievements that I have been able to discern in that time in return for his increased expenses: (a) a new sign saying 'you are now entering a town' not a village as it was (this he said gives you more clout when asking for things - give me strength!) and (b) a new improved bus shelter. He and his local councillors meet monthly for this and send out an annual leaflet detailing their ‘achievements’.

Politicians today have little by little managed to have laws changed for themselves that shield them from scrutiny in many areas and now even from criticism, helped by a willing and ever more politicised justice system as e.g. here:

https://thecritic.co.uk/the-case-of-anna-soubry-vs-amy-dalla-mura/

- and the ever more numerous cases of a two tier system that keep telling us there is no equal playing field where the law is concerned; the figure holding the scales of justice above the Old Bailey should weep, in the modern world her arms would not be on the same plane but more likely at 45 degrees.

How they would have coped in the days of Hogarth is not known:


To keep the globalisation juggernaut going we are expected to embrace new clean technologies in an effort to save the world, relying on the scientists' predictions and warnings, not one of which has come to fruition; but as it is for our own good (not the replacement at our expense of dying industries) that we should embrace the electric car and electric everything despite not having the energy capacity to fulfil this new technology (and not being likely to have for decades yet, despite being told, as with nuclear power when it was first introduced, that it 'could' end up being free!) We know it will turn out to be more expensive, it always does; the likelihood of a real shortage of the rare minerals needed for all these batteries and the fact such a stable country like the Congo is the main supplier of some is dismissed as fear-mongering by those who use the same kind of fear-mongering for their own purposes.

Our water companies having failed miserably to stop leakage are now in my own area asking how we should pay them for the building of future infrastructure, a word redundant in this country as all infrastructure is failing and no or little new infrastructure is built. The water companies are especially guilty in this respect: having taken over the nationalised water boards they sold off everything deemed surplus and have done, well, nothing other than distribute profits and dividends; now they warn we should be careful how we use water as there is not enough to go round with our increasing population and some people could go short and that would be our fault for using too much, not theirs for a total failure to invest, and now want us the customers to invest in advance for them - a company owned by a Canadian pension fund and Australian investment funds; foreign investment funds show in strength throughout the water industry .
https://corporatewatch.org/who-owns-your-water-and-how-theyll-try-to-keep-it/

Perhaps I have too much time on my hands, perhaps I look at the world through a jaundiced eye, there may well be a bit of that in there, yet there was a time when politicians of all sides and at all levels had a core of people who were as they say” giving something back” to the nation or the area they benefited from. Not today: all you see are grubby little paws voting for above average inflation salaries and expenses, rises we pay for, and a deterioration in all services.

The virus has at least highlighted one area of difference in the country: it has been calculated that for every one person who loses his job in the public sector because of the now recession two will lose theirs in the private sector - you know, the sector that pays for everything and I mean everything. Naturally wastage in the public sector will be front operatives, never those in the town hall with the gold-plated pensions.

Sometimes it looks as though the West has reached the end of its days, like the Roman Empire it has overstretched itself and events brought its downfall. Maybe that is the endgame today; eventually all Empires fade away, the British Empire has long gone but look at how quickly it happened! Hard to believe. For example we built 80% of the worlds ships in 1890; in 110 years that has gone to nothing and the same with many other areas in engineering and commerce. That is not a picture of a nation on the rise. In 1945 we were still the second richest nation on this planet by GDP; now we are sixth, and in the last six months of this epidemic we have lost 22% of our productivity, far more than our Western G7 neighbours. Why was that? I think we know: we don’t produce anything; we now rely on service industries and tourism and the latter has been obliterated with little sign of it returning to normal.

We have always been a resourceful nation and I am sure we can find some niche areas to explore such as the second hand inflatable market, after all they cost us nothing and Dover harbour I am told has hundreds of them with one owner certification and only 22 miles on the clock, there’s a start.

The virus has at least come up with a useful hint:


We are very vulnerable now to the state of the outside world: we longer control a large chunk of it and are in big debt, the recession has started, the outcome is as yet unknown or unfathomable and we are governed by idiots and worse.

Clownworld.

Friday, August 14, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Traveling Wilburys, by JD



"The etymological origins of The Traveling Wilburys have aroused something of a controversy amongst academic circles. Did they, as Professor “Bobby” Sinfield believes, originate from the various Wilbury Fairs which traveled Europe in Medieval times, titillating the populace with contemporary ballads, or were they rather derived from, “YE TRAVELING WILBURYS”, who were popular locksmiths during the Crusades and used to pick or unlock the jammed chastity belts (rather like today’s emergency plumbers.)

Dr. Arthur Noseputty of Cambridge believes they were closely related to the Strangling Dingleberries, which is not a group but a disease. I think this can be discounted, not only because of his silly name but also from his habit of impersonating Ethel Merman during lectures. Some have even gone on to suggest tenuous links with The Pillsburys, the group who invented Flour Power.

Dim Sun, a Chinese academic, argues that they may be related to “THE STROLLING TILBURYS”, Queen Elizabeth the first’s favourite minstrels, and backs this suspicion with the observation that The Traveling Wilburys is an obvious anagram of “V. BURYING WILL’S THEATRE”, clearly a reference to the closing of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre by Villiers during an outbreak of the plague. This would account for the constant traveling. Indeed, many victims of the plague and St.Vitus’ dance literally danced themselves to death, and it is this dancing theme that resurfaces with The Wilbury Twist. Not a cocktail but a dance craze, reminiscent of The Wilbury Quadrille made famous at Bath in 1790 by Beau Diddley, and the Wilbury Waltz, which swept Vienna in the 1890’s.

One thing, however, remains certain. The circumambulatory peregrinations of these itinerant mundivagant peripatetic nomads has already disgorged one collection of popular lyrical cantata, which happily encapsulated their dithyrambic antiphonic contrapuntal threnodies as a satisfactory auricular experience for the hedonistic gratification of the hoi-polloi on a popular epigraphically inscribed gramophonic recording. Now here’s another one.

Professor “TINY” Hampton is currently leading the search for Intelligent Life amongst Rock Journalism at the University of Please Yourself, California."

“Sometimes you think you’re crazy, 
  But you know you’re only mad, 
  Sometimes you’re better off not knowing, 
  How much you’ve been had.”

-The Devil’s Been Busy, The Traveling Wilburys
https://www.travelingwilburys.com/



















Bonus track: the original version of Wilbury Twist. As you can see the Wilbury family is bigger than we thought it was. Charlie T Wilbury Sr had an energetic and busy time. No wonder he died so young!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Biafra and the British Establishment: Tools You Can't Trust

If you read Frederick Forsyth’s autobiography 'The Outsider' (2015), you’ll come away with a long list of British institutions to mistrust and deplore.

His experience in Africa illustrates why. In 1967, as the world was recovering from the surprise victory of Israel over Egypt in the Six-Day War, the BBC sent Forsyth to cover a civil war in Nigeria, whose Eastern Region, known as Biafra, had decided to secede.

Forsyth knew nothing on the subject, but was briefed by a man from the BBC’s World Service, based in Bush House, London. According to this expert, the Ibo (or Igbo) tribe of Biafra were chronic troublemakers who had been misled by their regional military governor, Colonel Ujukwu, into rebelling against ‘the very fine republic’ of Nigeria. The rebel army were a rabble and would soon be defeated by the British-trained Nigerian army. Forsyth was not to file a report but simply find the Deputy High Commissioner and stick with him as the Nigerian army swept down into Biafra, then be taken back by boat to neighbouring Cameroon, from where he could file an ‘upsummer’ report on the inevitably short revolt.

When Forsyth repeated this briefing to the Deputy High Commissioner based in the eastern regional capital Enugu, the latter put his head in his hands. It turned out that the official line had come from the High Commissioner (Ambassador) in Lagos, who had sold this to the Commonwealth Relations Office and they in turn to Bush House and the BBC’s foreign news department. ‘The London briefing was wrong on every point,’ says FF, and confirmed ‘the old adage for foreign correspondents. Never mind what the embassy says: go and ask the old sweats who have been there for years.’

The problems had started in the 1950s with the British decision that Nigeria, previously ruled by the British Empire as two countries, should be united and become a democracy.  Northern Nigeria, says FF, was Islamic, feudal and with no middle class, shunning education and technology. The South had largely been converted to Christianity and the Ibos of the eastern part were clever and entrepreneurial, used by the British to run the technical and office support in the North.

The emirs and sultans of the North resisted democracy until it was pointed out that as their people were numerically superior they would dominate the federation, which came into being on 1 October 1960. Six years later a group of Ibo officers who had been trained in England led a coup against what they saw as Nigeria’s sham democracy and corruption. The plotters were soon overthrown and a military governor appointed to each of the new country’s four regions. The North then retaliated against the Ibos there, first by killing hundreds of Ibo soldiers in the region’s  barracks, then by mob violence against Ibo ghettoes that left thousands dead (FF’s London briefing had called it ‘a storm in a teacup’).  The survivors fled south.

Over the next ten months relations between the Ibos of the east and the Lagos government deteriorated. ‘In London the mandarins of the Commonwealth Office and later the Foreign Office quickly showed a passionate favouritism towards the federal regime, stoked by the resident High Commissioner,’ says FF. Biafra seceded on 30 May 1967.

Reporting from Lagos in western Nigeria, the BBC’s Angus McDiarmid repeated propaganda from Nigeria’s Ministry of Information, alleging anti-Ojukwu riots among the Ibo and successful advances by Nigerian military forces. The reports were false but the BBC was relaying them sloppily: ‘The broadcasts out of Lagos that first month had attribution, if at all, in the fourth or even fifth paragraph. It sounded like the BBC itself talking.’

Three weeks after the conflict started, FF was asked to provide a ‘matcher’ report from Biafra, confirming the statements from Lagos. Instead, he sent a telex saying that ‘my briefing had been garbage and the reports out of Lagos were tripe.’ FF had thereby killed his BBC career: ‘I did not realize that when broadcasting for the state, a foreign correspondent must never report what London does not want to hear.’ FF was recalled to London and reassigned to the BBC’s home news department, whose head explained to him his error in contradicting the High Commission in Lagos, HMG’s Commonwealth Office, the BBC World Service and the recently-appointed foreign news editor at the BBC, Arthur Hutchinson.

The official line was that the war would be short, but instead of collapsing the Biafran army crossed the river Niger and almost got to Lagos before the expedition was subverted by a traitorous officer. By February 1968 the Biafrans had secured their finances, were increasing their own army and had set up an agency for media communications, inviting international press to come and see.

The BBC boycotted the visit. Hutchinson (who had never wanted Forsyth in his department in the first place, having lined up his own protégé) forbade him to go, saying, ‘You have to understand, we are not covering this war.’

FF secretly used leave time and his own savings to fly back out to Africa. Mechanical failure on his return flight meant that he could not return on time and found his flat had been broken into by two people from the BBC claiming to be ‘worried’ about him. He wrote a resignation letter to his new boss saying that the Nigerian war ‘was going to be a major story with considerable length and many casualties.’ He decided to go out to Biafra again, as a freelance reporter.

As the conflict stretched out to ten months, children in rural Biafra began to starve to death. There was plenty of starch from cassava and yams, but where an adult needs one gramme of protein a day a growing child needs five. The government blockade of food imports had forced the Biafrans to eat their pigs and chickens, and their main protein source, dried cod from Norway, was shut off. FF agreed to provide on-the-ground information for MI6. Meanwhile the head and deputy at the Commonwealth Relations Office had both resigned over the government’s policy.

The CRO had then merged with the Foreign Office to form the new FCO, whose head was in thrall to his civil servants, who maintained the policy recommended by the Ambassador to Nigeria. Despite the humanitarian argument for a ceasefire the British Government resisted, for reasons FF calls vanity and cowardice: HMG would have had to admit they had been wrong. Instead, the strategy of supporting the Nigerian federal government continued, with increased British assistance to bring the war to an end as quickly as possible, despite marches and protests:

‘There were times when Harold Wilson appeared almost under siege and twice, I learned later, the “reconsider” policy was almost adopted.  Had the opposition Conservative Party lent its weight, the change of policy might have gone through and the dying of the children ended, but Edward Heath, the Tory leader, shared with the FCO his European Union obsession and he was their man.’

Part of Britain’s help to Nigeria was in the form of secret arms shipments to supply the Nigerian Army that had introduced conscription to bring up numbers.

‘Behind a mendacious screen of “neutrality”, the Wilson government poured in the equipment, without which the war could not have proceeded […] Another early lie was that no weapons at all were being shipped from Britain to fuel the war. The key word was “from”, not “by”. In fact, the supplies were coming from British stocks at the immense NATO weapons park outside Brussels, and thus technically from Belgium. They were then replaced by shipments from Britain to Belgium.’

The war dragged on. In Biafra, the clergy recognized the children’s protein-deficiency illness – kwashiorkor – and began to appeal for funds and medications. In June, the Daily Express and Daily Sketch each sent a reporter and photographer; Forsyth escorted the former. The Express reporter stayed at his base, working through the supplies of whisky he had brought with him, so Forsyth took the cameraman to the battlefronts and composed the staff writer’s despatches for him (the Express reporter later ‘filed the lot for the international Reporter of the year award – and won.’)

Then the photographers found starving children at a local mission and the pictures shocked Britain and eventually Europe and the USA, prompting a large-scale church-organised relief operation that (illegally) flew in supplies through Nigerian airspace.

Even then the British authorities did their best to suppress the truth. One ‘ex-public-school product’ at the FCO’s media relations office claimed a small group of suffering children had been taken to one place after another to mislead everyone as to the scale of the disaster.

‘On another occasion the war hero Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC was asked to go to visit, be shown around Nigeria only, and return to peddle the official line. He duly went to Nigeria but then refused not to go to Biafra. What he saw on the second visit so shocked him that he came back and denounced the official policy. He was immediately smeared as a gullible fool.’

The final toll of dead children in Biafra numbered around a million, and would have been perhaps twice that without the relief flights. Forsyth compares the situation to the Holocaust, in that it was not only the immediate doers that carried the blame, but also the bureaucratic enablers without whom such crimes could not have been carried out.

‘That is why I believe that this coterie of vain mandarins and cowardly politicians stained the honour of my country for ever and I will never forgive them.’
_________________________________________________________________________________
See also Forsyth's article in The Guardian on 21 January 2020, 'Buried for 50 years: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war':

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/21/buried-50-years-britain-shamesful-role-biafran-war-frederick-forsyth

Sunday, August 09, 2020

SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND: Lick my plate (dogs in restaurants), by Wiggia

From what I have seen lately in the few newspapers I buy now, and especially in their supplements, there are endless articles about what various correspondents, celebrities (a pretty meaningless word these days) and anyone else who will give of their time, did in the lock down and what they have done since.

The articles on what they have done / will do / won't do since lock down dominate the colour section at the moment. Hardly a day goes by without some Islington bubble dweller pronouncing how they don’t know how they survived the confinement but learned how their life balance had been enhanced by being surrounded by obnoxious out of control children for four months and how brave they all are stepping out again in the world - the new normal.

There have been several articles on how eating out at the Ivy and elsewhere has created a void that can’t be filled and how wonderful it is to be able to go back sit near a Z list celeb, meet a celebrity chef,  and spend lots of money on linguine again, how did we manage!

But one article on eating out caught my eye on Thursday in the Times supplement. The article was little more than a huge plug for Georgio Locatelli’s restaurant and the restaurant industry in what for them are dire times, but it had a strange slant, something which has been gaining momentum for some time in this country: dogs in restaurants.



The above comes into the attention-seeking category: aren’t I clever, ain’t they cute? - No, not really.

The writer, one Kate Spicer (food critic! No, me neither) made great play of dog friendly restaurants and Georgio's in particular and the main photo in the two spread piece shows her with her dog at the table in Georgio's. When I say at the table I mean sitting on a chair looking at her plate of food; this may well have been staged for the piece, yet a paragraph early in the piece suggests otherwise…

“Good dogs are allowed there, I’ve been welcomed alone with bad hair in my dog walking clothes and with two leggy lurchers. It’s an intense pleasure to eat there solo with my boys curled up beside me and a plate of chestnut tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and a glass or two of fruili to go with it.”

For a food writer the throwaway ‘fruili’ was a bad error: there is no such thing as a glass of fruili and it should have a capital F. Fruili is a region in northern Italy home to Pinot Grigio; she should know that, or not, but I digress.

There is no law against dogs being in restaurants. Until recently very few food-serving premises allowed dogs inside but that has softened quite a lot in recent years. I can only assume it drums up extra trade.

The French have never had such qualms about dogs being in restaurants. It has been a regular sight, the lap dog on the lap of the eater, something that I could never get my head round as to why anyone would want to have a dog's nose near food, knowing that it had been up its own arse minutes earlier. I really don’t get it; the French, well…



Please...

I have lived with dogs at home for the greater part of my life. I trained dogs for competition at the highest level as a hobby for twenty years so I feel I am coming at this with a the slant of a dog lover not hater.

Not once in all that time did I take a dog to a restaurant or ever wanted to. Pubs, yes, where the dog stayed on the floor when you had a drink at the bar; but even that was a rare occasion. Even in the home the dogs were never allowed into the dining area if we were eating and definitely no sleeping in the bedroom or on the bed as many do.



There was an article linked to this photo talking about the deadly disease the owner who allowed this had caught. Unfortunately it is not available in this country but this gives a short low-down on why you should not allow your dog to lick your face.
https://www.quantumbooks.com/other/travel-and-living/is-is-dangerous-to-let-your-puppy-lick-your-face/

In the end you come back to why would anyone, as this writer says she did, take the dogs out in the rain and then ‘pop in’ to their local Michelin-starred restaurant. What proprietor would want those muddy feet on his plush carpet, never mind on his seats? Madness. Is this another case of “because I can” rather than any practical reason? She finishes her piece with another recommendation of a restaurant, trying hard to mitigate the effects of the virus, that has made an outdoor space and installed a beehive (?)  And the place is dog friendly. I am glad she told me that so I can cross another pretentious establishment off my go-to list; not that I go to many restaurants these days, mainly because they are already expensive rip-offs in the main and are still pretentious.

It did however remind me of the days I used to be able to buy the dog meat in bulk from the local abattoir, then sorted it out for freezing when I got home, cooking raw tripe after washing in large containers, all whilst the dogs salivated outside at the kitchen door. You wont get a plate of that at Locatellis - the dogs would have it off your plate before you could say wild mushrooms.

Doggy bag, anyone?

And lastly a photo that has absolutely nothing to do with the above, but I thought you might like it: my last two OES at play (or one is, the other is just being momentarily tolerant.)


Oh, and as a breed you definitely do not want them anywhere near a carpet!

Saturday, August 08, 2020

SATURDAY ESSAY: Online Shopping, by JD


What could be easier? Sit in the comfort of your own home, browse at your leisure the things you want/desire/need, a few clicks of your mouse and the goods of your choice are swiftly despatched to your door. No problem, no venturing out in the rain, no trudging from shop to shop only to find the shops do not stock what you are looking for, no travelling and, of course, no 'worn out feeling' after you return home. Shop online and all your dreams will be fulfilled!

Unfortunately the reality is somewhat different.

Last week I checked, via Royal Mail 'track and trace' web page, the progress of an item I had ordered using this online shopping 'experience' (why is using the internet now described as an experience?) The Royal Mail site told me that my package had arrived at my local Delivery Office at 08:05 that morning and just as an aside, when and why did the sorting office become a delivery office? So I waited for delivery knowing that the sorting office is no more than half a mile from my house. And I waited. And then I waited some more. Where on earth was it? Eventually the van arrived with my package some time after 4pm. More than eight hours to travel half a mile! We have all heard of snail mail but that must be some sort of record; eight hours, half a mile, one sixteenth of a mile per hour: one hour for each half furlong. (For any dumbed own young people reading, half a furlong is 110yards or the length of five cricket pitches.)

When I mentioned the tale to a taxi driver he said "Aye well, ye know what the traffic is like these days!" Clearly he has the same sense of humour that I have.

Couple of days later I was sitting waiting once more for two more packages. I had emails from the suppliers telling me that my packages were despatched on the 20th and 22nd. Royal Mail website tells me that "in these 'difficult' times blah blah deliveries may take longer than usual blah blah" One of these packages has a tracking reference but the message was 'despatched' followed by '..we will let you know.'

Based on past experience that means they will let me know after it has been delivered!

Trying to find how to contact Royal Mail is impossible. The web page is a madhouse designed to misdirect customers into a labyrinth of choices and options all of which lead astray into further obfuscations of frequently asked questions, none of which offer any actual help. The telephone 'help' line is the usual 'press button one for...' etc and none of the buttons leads to an actual human voice.
Their web page is a wonderful demonstration of Hutber's Law ('improvement means deterioration') at its best. The law so beloved of web designers and bureaucrats everywhere. It is the law which underpins the Bible Of Bureaucratic Obfuscation or Bobo for short which is appropriate - https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/spanish-english/bobo

Just to add insult to injury, the opening hours of the sorting office have been changed and it is now open between 7am and 9am only. (It used to be open until noon.) So if I do miss a delivery I must then get up in the middle of the night to catch those opening hours which are inconveniently outside the hours during which my pensioner bus pass is valid!

The two errant packages eventually arrived on the 31st; after eleven days and nine days respectively. The Postie said the sorting office was 'chaos' with an above average number of packages and parcels; with everyone now frightened to go shopping they are all shopping online. Added to that are the staff shortages for either illness or the Government's generous 'furlough' scheme. Royal Mail is erratic at the best of times so this 'crisis' has geven them the perfect alibi for their poor service.

Before online shopping gets to the delivery stage there is the obstacle course of filling in the order form. Some are well designed and easy to use but some are bafflingly complex to my tired old brain. And sometimes they just do not work! Their are occasions when the order form flags up a message telling me my card is 'invalid' but a quick(?) phone call to the card company tells me that the card is valid and there is no block on it or what i am buying is well within the credit limit. There are times when I go round in circles trying to resolve things if the contact phone number, if any, is well hidden and so I just give up. If I do find a contact number, usually smaller companies and not the big names, there will be a cheerful and helpful voice on the other end. I will then place the order over the phone which is much quicker and easier than filling in the online order form. The person on the other end of the phone will have my failed order on screen which helps the process and the despatch is usually the same day.

I have not bought anything from Amazon for a long time. Not since they changed the way they operate which now seems to be as a reseller or agent for third party suppliers. But I have noticed that the name of the supplier is displayed, not very prominently, somewhere on the screen. I have found that by going to the supplier's web page the item is available directly from them. Very often it is the same price shown on Amazon's page and occasionally it may be cheaper. If it is non specific or one of a range, there will be alternative choices not shown at Amazon. I would recommend buying direct if possible. Why help a foreign inavader to dodge its share of tax liabilities?

Irony of ironies is that Amazon has been accused of helping to destroy the high street but they have recently announced they will be moving into the high street with lots of Amazon Shops!
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8585211/Amazon-giant-plans-chain-UK-book-shops-cashless-convenience-stores.html

Cashless shops which automatically bill you when you take something from the shelves? I don't like the sound of that but the story prompted this perfect riposte in the comments from Billy M - "I'm a professional shoplifter. How the hell am I supposed to make a living if I sneak out with goods stuffed into my Y Fronts and then getting billed for them before I get home? This profession is stressful enough without added pressures."

Finally, a word about online grocery shopping. I am getting old and weary so buying some of the heavier items online made sense, it would save carrying it home. I rely on the bus these days having given up driving years ago. I did a tour of the Morrisons web pages, adding things to the 'basket' but when it came to checkout time I couldn't find the checkout. More spinning round in circles until eventually everything disappeared and a sign in the corner of the screen indicated that my 'basket' was empty. So I sent an email to Morrisinghs and a reply dawdled in a few days later. I don't think I am fit for the modern world because I didn't understand a word of the explanation of 'how to shop.' I did go back to their pages to have another try but I couldn't be bothered to spend ages going clickety click. It takes ages to go through all the choices. But I did notice that they now had a very prominent checkout sign in the top right corner.

I have since then been informed that their delivery service is less than perfect, with items missing or wrong items etc so I don't think I shall trouble them further. Come to think of it, I have not seen any of their vans. I have seen Asda vans and Iceland vans and the occasional Tesco van but Morrisons? No sign of one.

Internet shopping? Not a pleasant experience so far but it might be that it becomes unavoidable in the future. I think I need to advertise for a personal shopper who could also act as archivist for my vast collection of unsold and abandoned artworks. Any and all offers will be considered. I am not saying that the pay will be much but the experience and the entertainment value will be priceless!

Friday, August 07, 2020

FRIDAY MUSIC: Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, by JD

Born and raised in an Italian-American neighborhood in South Philadelphia, Guiseppe [Joe] Venuti (1903-1978) met guitarist Eddie Lang when he was ten years old. The two soon became fast friends and musical collaborators. After falling in love with jazz, Venuti and Lang started a band while in high school, and pioneered the use of the violin and guitar as jazz instruments while playing in the clubs and dance halls of Philadelphia.

"In addition to being the first great jazz violinist, Joe Venuti was something of a prankster. In perhaps his most famous prank, Venuti called twenty-six tuba players in Hollywood and told them he had a gig lined up. There was no gig. (Tommy Dorsey said 37 to meet at Hollywood and Vine) He just wanted to see what would happen when they all arrived at the same time. Unfortunately, for Venuti, the musician's union made him pay compensation to each musician who showed up for the event. Venuti was also famous for having pushed a piano out a window, and filling up Bix Biederbecke's bathtub with Jello. What may have started out as one of his pranks became one of his musical innovations. To play chords on the violin, Venuti tied his bow around his instrument to bring it into contact with all four strings, and thus enabled him to play rich chordal passages of music." (from the notes to the second video here)













This is the only live performance by the duo that I can find. Pity it is so short but they look like natty dressers - I love those 'custard cream' jackets!

Joe Venuti & Eddie Lang - Wild Cat (1930) "King Of Jazz" 7:07