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Great get from The Sun

Friday, 13 July, 2018

It’s the lead story on Bloomberg, the BBC, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and lots of other global media outlets. It’s President Donald Trump’s “world exclusive” interview with Tom Newton Dunn of The Sun. This is classic tabloid stuff filled with one-sentence paragraphs that snap, crackle and pop:

In an extraordinary intervention timed to coincide with his UK visit, Mr Trump said Theresa May ignored his advice by opting for a soft Brexit strategy.

And he warned her any attempts to maintain close ties with the EU would make a lucrative US trade deal very unlikely.

Mr Trump said: “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.”

The Sun


Harry and Meghan and the Whit Wedding

Monday, 21 May, 2018

Once upon a time, Whit Saturday was a popular day for weddings in the UK. This historical fact, however, was unnoticed by the Reverend Michael Curry in his sermon during the Royal Wedding as Whit Saturday was turned into Windsor Saturday. The British poet Philip Larkin would have been bemused.

The Whitsun Weddings is one of Larkin’s best-known poems and it was published in 1964, the year The Rolling Stones released their debut album. Larkin, who was more of a Beatles man, describes a train journey on a hot Whit Saturday. The windows are open and he becomes aware that the passengers boarding the train at its several stops are members of Whit wedding parties. He observes the people and imagines the venues where the wedding receptions have been held. As the train approaches London, his thoughts turn to the meaning of what the newly-weds have done.

The Whitsun Weddings

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river’s level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
For miles inland,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displaced the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn’t notice what a noise
The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what’s happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event
Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewellery-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochres that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed aboard: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
— An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl — and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985)

Today, Whit Monday, was declared a bank holiday in the UK in 1871 but it lost this status in 1972 when the Spring Bank Holiday was created in its place.


Prince Hal

Saturday, 19 May, 2018

Stories about young Prince Harry’s wild life were legendary. According to the English chronicler Thomas Elmham (1364 –1427), “He fervently followed the service of Venus as well as of Mars, as a young man might he burned with her torches, and other insolences accompanied the years of his untamed youth.”

Some 150 years after Elmham’s death, William Shakespeare wrote Henry IV, Part I. Here, in Act 1, Scene 1: Falstaff addresses Hal:

Marry, then, sweet wag, when thou art king, let not
us that are squires of the night’s body be called
thieves of the day’s beauty: let us be Diana’s
foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the
moon; and let men say we be men of good government,
being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and
chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.

And Prince Hal says:

If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work,
But when they seldom come, they wished-for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.

Royal Wedding


Morrissey Spent the Day in Bed

Sunday, 19 November, 2017 0 Comments

Morrissey began the Twitter phase of his career two months ago. On 18 September, at 10.39 pm, he tweeted “Spent the Day in Bed.” Spent the Day in Bed is also the title of the first single from his new album Low In High School. In recent years, Moz has taken to saying things that people don’t want to hear and he’s not for turning now.

“Spent the day in bed
Very happy I did, yes
I spent the day in bed
As the workers stay enslaved
I spent the day in bed
I’m not my type, but
I love my bed
And I recommend that you

Stop watching the news!
Because the news contrives to frighten you
To make you feel small and alone
To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own.”


Europe sans platforms

Wednesday, 15 November, 2017 0 Comments

Internet platforms are eating the world and the value of the top US platforms now exceeds $1.8 trillion. Europe, meanwhile, has no internet platform and neither does it have a single tech company in the list of the global top 50 firms. Martin Wolf of the FT examines this sad and humiliating state of affairs.

The platforms


Brexit and Jarndyce

Tuesday, 14 November, 2017 0 Comments

Like Jarndyce and Jarndyce the case of Brexit and Brexit drones on and on and on. Will it conclude with the British electorate being forced to the polls for an other referendum? Two referendums should do it, unless there’s a dispute about the correct English plural form of the word, that is. The singular, by the way, is a variant of the Latin word referre ‘to refer’ and it means ‘a thing that must be referred to the people’. And some things, such as the choice between freedom and enslavement, must be referred to the people.

This vexed question made news in June 1988, during a House of Commons debate, when the late Alan Clark, Tory MP for Kensington and Chelsea, asked for a ruling on the matter. He said he was prompted to do so because he had previously been called to order for “using the language of the common market.” His point, he said, was that he had “heard on many occasions colleagues refer to referendums — which is an exceedingly ugly term.” Clark, who was fond of the gerundive, wanted to know whether the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, would “prefer us to continue to use the Latin word, or whether you have no objection to the continued Anglicisation of this term.” Madam Speaker replied:

“I do notice on the Public Bill List that the word referendums for Scotland and Wales is used there. The word referendum was first used in English 150 years ago, according to the Oxford English dictionary which I’ve just been able to refer to. So I imagine after 150 years the House will be quite used to it now. I think the plural is a matter of taste but I’ve always preferred the use of the English language to any Latin form if that is of some guidance.”

Now’s the time to get agreement on the plural form of ‘referendum’ because we’re going to need it.


Gin of the week: Bulldog

Wednesday, 2 August, 2017 0 Comments

The expert’s nose will detect floral notes with hints of lavender, lime, orange and, of course, juniper, which is sourced from Tuscany, no less. The piney nature of that same juniper is pronounced on the palate and it’s complemented with an array of botanicals, including orris, cassia, liquorice and almonds. But so much for the ordinary. Bulldog adds the extraordinary in the form of the longan, a small fruit native to south-east Asia. It’s common in traditional medicine and in the soups of contemporary Asian cuisine.

This is an elegant gin. Global in structure, Bulldog is essentially British in substance. The subliminal connection with Churchill cannot be overlooked and Bulldog is an ideal base for a Churchill Martini. Ingredients: six parts Bulldog, one part dry vermouth. Method: Pour ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an olive or two. Legend has it that Sir Winston liked his martinis served without vermouth, and he’s quoted as saying of the cocktail, “Glance at the vermouth bottle briefly while pouring the juniper distillate freely.”

Bulldog

Note: Bulldog is the fourth in a gin series that began with Blackwater No. 5, was followed by Friedrichs and continued with Dingle.


Mrs May: The charisma of a carrot

Saturday, 10 June, 2017 0 Comments

Writing about what he calls “Britain’s Election Disaster”, Theodore Dalrymple, a contributing editor of City Journal, says “Theresa May’s political incompetence carries a high price.” His displeasure is such that he goes all ad hominem: “It did not help that she had the charisma of a carrot and the sparkle of a spade,” he notes. And then he gets political:

“Technically, she won the election, in the sense that she received more votes than anyone else, but few voted for her with enthusiasm rather than from fear of the alternative. Her disastrous campaign included repeated genuflections in the direction of social democracy. Even after her defeat, moral if not quite literal, she burbled about a society in which no one was left behind — never mind that it would entail a society in which no one would be out in front, that is to say, a society resting in the stagnant pool of its own mediocrity.”

Many great leaders discovered their greatness only in the wilderness of exile and the bitterness of defeat and although Mrs May is now the subject of ridicule, she might yet develop the “steel” that’s needed for surviving in times of adversity. The clock is ticking, however, and she has, at most, six months to prove that she’s got the stuff of Thatcher within her. If she cannot find it, she will have to live with those carrot comparisons and toast analogies and worse.


Binning Corbyn

Thursday, 8 June, 2017 0 Comments

Nick Cohen describes himself as “a passionate leftist and liberal,” but he won’t be voting for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in today’s United Kingdom general election. Writing in the Spectator’s Coffee House section, Cohen offers a list of facts about Corbyn “which have not previously been collated in one place” and orders them under three headings: “Ethics, Leadership & Electability, and Social Media & Activists.” Nick Cohen says, “The reader can make up their own mind, based on these facts.”

One heading is of particular interest here and is titled “Against peace in Ireland.” Cohen says that Corbyn supported the IRA, opposed the Northern Ireland peace process and aligned himself with terrorists. Sample:

“Corbyn was general secretary of the editorial board of the hard-left journal Labour Briefing which supported IRA violence and explicitly backed the Brighton Hotel Bombing, which killed 5 people and maimed 31 others. In its December 1984 leader, the editorial board ‘disassociated itself’ from an article criticising the Brighton bombing, saying the criticism was a ‘serious political misjudgement’. The board said it ‘reaffirmed its support for, and solidarity with, the Irish republican movement’, and added that ‘the British only sit up and take notice when they are bombed into it’. Alongside its editorial, the board reprinted a speech by Gerry Adams describing the bombing as a ‘blow for democracy’. The same edition carried a reader’s letter praising the ‘audacity’ of the IRA attack and stating: ‘What do you call four dead Tories? A start.'”

Jeremy Corbyn is unfit for high office and British voters should reject him today.

Gerry Adams


A cheery Spectator and a glum Prospect

Monday, 22 August, 2016 0 Comments

At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Great Britain won 15 medals, including a solitary gold. Team GB finished 36th in the medal table that year. This year, Great Britain finished second in the table, ahead of China, with 67 medals, 27 of which were gold. The greatest credit for this achievement is due to the athletes, but Sir John Major, whose Conservative government set up the National Lottery in 1994, is central to their success. The Lottery started funding athletes in 1997, the so they could train full-time and, by 2004, Team GB’s medal tally had doubled to 30, doubling again at London in 2012.

Andrew Marr credits John Major in his Spectator diary entry written in sunny Dubrovnik amid crowds of contented Croats and tourists. “Team GB is a near-perfect post-Brexit idea” says Marr, inspired by it all and hoping for happy days:

“Imagine a Britain which had seriously invested for the long term, focusing only on industries and technologies where we were likely to be world-class; and where ‘company’ was used in the old sense of being a tight, committed team of friends and allies working together for a goal many years in the future. It would be a Britain shorn of short-term political lurches in funding and direction, whose corporate leaders had a lively sense of how much they owed to their teams and didn’t treat themselves as Medici princelings.”

Prospect But all that is gold does not glisten. Well, not for the “remoaners”, anyway. With a most unfortunate sense of timing, Prospect depicts Team GB stuck on a self-imposed, starting line in its race for a place in the world. Jay Elwes, Deputy Editor of Prospect, argues: “…there is a strong case that Britain’s new settlement with the EU should be put to a further vote. As the economic threat posed by Brexit grows ever more apparent, so the need for parliamentary intervention will increase. Britain needs a new plan — in the end, a decision by the Commons not to proceed with Brexit might turn out to be the best plan of all.”

After a summer of gold for spectators, disgruntled remoaners are hoping for the prospect of a winter of discontent and an un-Brexit.


The Johnson Factor

Thursday, 14 July, 2016 1 Comment

The main point of The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is that one person can make all the difference. Snippet:

“Churchill decides from very early on that he will create a political position that is somehow above left and right, embodying the best points of both sides and thereby incarnating the will of the nation. He thinks of himself as a gigantic keystone in the arch, with all the lesser stones logically induced to support his position. He has a kind of semi-ideology to go with it — a leftish Toryism: imperialist, romantic, but on the side of the working man.”

Boris Johnson The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

The Churchill Factor