Boris Johnson’s courage, EU kindness, local Independent threatens Tories, Ohio’s hopes for a miracle, another believer in kindness

8 December 2019

This time next week it’ll all be over and we’ll know the worst (there isn’t a best on offer).  I wonder how proud we’ll feel if the new, elected prime minister turns out to be someone who hasn’t even got the courage to be interviewed by Andrew Neil.

I’ve suggested the BBC film an interview of Andrew Neil with an empty chair.  Neil would go through the most significant of Boris Johnson’s lies and contrast what he said in 2016 (or whenever) with what he’s now saying and ask “How do you explain that?”.  Cut to empty chair and silence, then back to Neil who goes asks about another of his lies, and so on.

Johnson did take part in a debate with Jeremy Corbyn on Friday but it was chaired by the wrong Nicholas and the result was, in terms of statistical significance, a tie.  Had Nicholas Parsons chaired it, Boris Johnson would have lost by 1,783 points because of his constant hesitation, deviation and repetition.  He was also duly humiliated and ridiculed when he dropped out of a press conference in Luxembourg (ostensibly to avoid protestors!), thereby proving that his claims of progress in the Brexit negotiations are entirely unfounded.

Back in September when Johnson was very rude to Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament Brexit coordinator, I felt so ashamed to be British that I emailed Verhofstadt to offer an apology to the entire EU on behalf of those of us in Britain who deeply regretted the childish and offensive remarks that had been made by our unelected prime minister and to hope that Verhofstadt and all his colleagues would be able to maintain their faith in the common decency of most of us in Britain.

I didn’t expect a reply and didn’t get one at the time but, on Wednesday, I received one saying “There is no need for an apology, but it is good to know that citizens are on our side” and assuring me that “[my] voice is being heard as we try to limit the damage and find the best possible solutions in the interest of everyone.”  What a kind man to reply to a nobody like me.

I mentioned last week that the poster for our independent candidate had been torn off our fence so I was disappointed to hear that this wasn’t just an isolated drunken ‘frolic’ and that some of Claire Wright’s other posters have been damaged or defaced, with one of her large campaign boards being ripped down by “two men dressed in black”.  Since she’s the only candidate who can overturn the Tories, suspicion would appear to fall on conservative supporters.

For more on Claire Wright and Hugh Grant’s endorsement of her campaign (joining Martin Bell who is already backing her), see the article in the i at

The Tories’ desperation was also demonstrated by a fifth communication urging us to vote Conservative.  Too late for us because we’ve already voted by post but encouraging to see how desperate the Conservatives are, particularly since the pro-EU ‘Best for Britain’ campaign estimates that only just over 40,000 people voting tactically in 36 key seats could avoid a majority Conservative government.

It was also interesting that our local Conservative candidate is following his master’s lead and didn’t have the courage to attend the Sidmouth hustings on Friday because he preferred to go late-night shopping and to a Christmas Fayre.  His vulnerability was emphasised by Boris Johnson’s actually visiting East Devon this week to offer his support.  Johnson moaned about the state of the A303 and the A358 at Taunton (which he hadn’t been told isn’t actually in Devon) and pledged more funding for roads.  He naturally declined to say how much, if any, of the funding would come to East Devon or used on the A303 if he was elected.

Enough already.

The state of Ohio this week is trying to change the (state) law so that doctors would have to re-implant ectopic pregnancies after they’d been removed or face a new charge of “abortion murder”.  The only slight hitch is that the procedure isn’t medically possible.

Donald Trump has been in London (well, Watford) this week and said he wouldn’t comment on the election but that he could work with Boris Johnson and it would be “so bad” if Jeremy Corbyn took over.

In Wednesday’s copy of the Times, Matthew Parris headlined his column “Let’s think of kindness as well as evil that men (sic*) do” and wrote “I’d ask you … to reflect on the vast potential for good that lies in the accumulation of trivial acts of kindness or civility … like each individual grain of sand in a dune that, blowing in the wind, can carry all before it, they can be an unstoppable force though none will ever merit a headline.”


*          Remember this is the Times, where men are men and women do the typing and make the tea.

Our next prime minister, Pinocchio, manifesto dreams, idea for FPTP replacement, Stormzy and Rocky, more kindness

1 December 2019

The election draws closer, with Boris Johnson bottling out of interviews and debates in case he comes over as even more of a bumbling idiot than he is though he did apparently spend some time shouting over Andrew Marr’s questions this morning (rumour has it he’s too frightened to be interviewed by Andrew Neil).  Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn condemns but refuses to apologise for anti-semitic remarks by members of his party.  (Why not just apologise for heaven’s sake?)

One of these is going to be our next prime minister – let’s hope they don’t get a majority.  And wouldn’t it be great if Johnson lost his seat!

At Thursday’s leaders’ debate on Channel 4, Johnson was represented by a block of ice that told fewer lies than he normally does and, still in character, ended up as a puddle on the floor.  The website gives some examples of how he fabricates, twists and bends the facts and, of course, his father believes the great unwashed couldn’t even spell Pinockio – how patrenizing!

We’re lucky in East Devon to have a brilliant independent candidate who is seen as such a threat to the Conservatives that we’ve now had two brochures and two ‘letters’ purporting to be from Boris Johnson himself urging us to vote for the only candidate who doesn’t live in the constituency, and the Independent’s poster on our wall was torn off last night.

The manifestos of the two parties who could win are radically different but both have been rubbished by the Institute for Fiscal Studies:  they say Tory plans would still leave expenditure on public services, excluding health, 14% lower in 2023/4 than it was in 2010/11 when they came to power, and Labour plans overestimate their ability to raise the money they need to pay for their plans.    The IFS research also shows that crashing out of the EU next year would increase the national debt to more than £220bn over the next five years, equivalent to an extra £8,000 of debt per household.

The Conservatives are promising things like hiring 50,000 extra nurses while, in fact, 19,000 of them are already employed by the NHS and it was the Conservatives who abolished bursaries for nursing students in 2016 anyway;  and building 40 new hospitals which is (let’s be generous) misleading;  they’re also promising to increase police numbers back to what they were before they came to power in 2010 and slashed everything in sight but, luckily, the rich won’t have to pay for it because there’s a magic money tree.  In the shadow of Yggdrasil perhaps?  Oh, and they’re promising to fill some of the 5,000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire.

Labour are promising much more expenditure on public services and have grasped the fact that they will need to increase taxes to pay for it.  However, even their public spending plans are still modest by the standard of the more advance European countries.

No wonder John Major’s deputy prime minister is now telling people to vote for a LibDem or Independent candidate – he said “They represent the best chance I can see for stopping the enormous self-harm of Brexit”.

When a friend and I were talking last week about alternative electoral systems, he suggested that we should have (and I simplify here) ‘up’ and ‘down’ votes on each ballot paper.  The winner would be the candidate with the highest number of ‘up’ votes after all the ‘down’ votes had been deducted or, if they all ended up with negative scores, the one with the lowest negative score.  I really like this idea, particularly since you could argue that, if they all ended up with negative scores, you should start the process again with different candidates.

There’s even been a battle for Twit of the Week.  Michael Gove’s attempts to rap a reply to Stormzy by quoting from a rap of his were demolished by a tweet from @Duggs_Bunny saying “Congrats, you’ve found the Twitter equivalent of blackface”;  and Donald Trump’s posting an airbrushed picture of his face on Rocky’s torso, with no caption or explanation.

(The lyrics of Stormzy’s rap that Gove borrowed also include the lines “Mention my name in your tweets / Oi rudeboy, shut up / How can you be better than me?” but Gove forgot to include these.)

The saddest news of the week was that two of Britain’s greatest polymaths, Clive James and Jonathan Miller, died.

There was also another terror attack in London that left two people and the murderer dead but this week’s kindness (well, selfless bravery really) was demonstrated by three people who restrained the attacker.

I’m in London on Tuesday and Wednesday next week so, if there’s no email from me next Sunday, it’s not because I got stabbed but because I bumped into Juliette Binoche and brought her home so we can practise our French.

A la semaine prochaine.  Peut être.

Cock-ups worldwide, a broken ‘PAUSE’ button, the dangers of bagpipes and another act of kindness

24 November 2019

Here’s another round-up of all this week’s news, starting with our own royal family’s proving by exception that the arrogance of the “never apologise, never explain” policy actually works but it needs to be interpreted as “don’t talk to the media”.

Ex-Prince Andrew’s ill-judged interview with Emily Maitlis has inspired some interesting reactions, rather as his late sister-in-law’s did when she looked up through her fluttering eyelashes in her own (surprisingly successful) attempt to gaslight the masses even though her interviewer bottled out of asking her about the rumours that a revolving door had been installed at the back of Kensington Palace.

An incidental question arising from the Andrew & Epstein affair is the whereabouts of Ghislaine Macavity Maxwell because there seem to be a lot of places she isn’t.

Perhaps it was she who got Donald Trump to change his mind and accept the legality of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank and she’s now in hiding.  His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, also said their legality should be judged by the Israeli courts (presumably to ensure an entirely impartial decision).

While Pompeo was saying this, the US Senate – with no obvious sense of irony – passed a bill intended to protect human rights in Hong Kong, leading to an unfriendly response from China;  America’s own record in relation to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is, of course, highly peccable.  As Tom Paxton sang in the 60s, in America “murderers pay for their crimes, even if we make a mistake sometimes”.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, he failed to win a majority in two elections earlier this year and his wife, Sara, was convicted in June of illegally misusing thousands of pounds of public funds. No doubt anybody who criticises either of them will be accused of anti-Semitism.

Unusually, Trump’s presidential motorcade included an ambulance this week when he suddenly went to hospital for an entirely routine but previously unscheduled medical check-up, absolutely not a suspected heart attack.

The bulletproof glass in Elon Musk’s Tesla “cybertruck” isn’t.  Designed as a pick-up truck and looking like a car designed by a 4-year old, the new vehicle’s windows broke when Musk chucked a rock at them to show how strong they aren’t.  You’d think his spontaneous exclamation when the second one broke should be enough to turn off most of the Mid-Western Trump voters – it’s obviously designed for the big open spaces where men are men and minds are small – but about 150,000 of the things have already been ordered.  (The European models will be built in Berlin because the cost of post-Brexit tariff barriers make the UK too unattractive.)

There was an unedifying debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in which the former said he’d get Brexit done and the latter said he’d rebuild the NHS.  Unfortunately, Johnson’s <PAUSE> button was broken and not even Julie Etchingham could stop his repetitive burbling and gurning.

It still hadn’t been repaired by the Q&A session with the leaders of the four major parties.  (Why don’t they give the chair on/off switches to each of the speakers’ microphones?)

There’s a long and ancient shaggy dog story about some bagpipes and an octopus, which I won’t tell you but the punchline, when it finally appears, implies that bagpipes are intelligent (and musical – there, you can work it out for yourself now).  Anyway, Scottish pipers* and other wind musicians have been warned to clean their instruments after a man died from a lung disease triggered by fungi lurking in his bagpipes.

OK, those of you who already thought the pipes are an instrument of the devil can stop laughing now because the disease, a form of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, can also be found in feather duvets and pillows and causes night sweats, a dry cough and shortness of breath, with the option of irreversible scarring of the lungs.  For safety’s sake, wind players should now disinfect their instruments and those of us who like feathers on the bed should prepare to suffer.

This week’s public act of kindness was provided the Democratic Minnesota congresswoman Ilham Omar.  After Patrick Carlineo had pleaded guilty to threatening her life, she wrote an open letter to Judge Frank Geraci suggesting that a prison sentence would only make Carlineo more resentful.  She wrote that “The answer to hate is not more hate; it is compassion” and suggested community integration and social services would be a better solution.


*    Players of the uilleann and Northumbrian pipes probably don’t need to worry quite as much because they keep their airbags inflated with their elbows rather than by blowing into them, and thereminists don’t need to worry at all.

HS2, Melbourne Park, Donald Trump x 2, Boris Johnson’s latest triumphs, Prince Andrew’s body language, kindness

17 November 2019

I don’t finish the weekend papers till Monday so it wasn’t until then that, to my chagrin, I found in Sunday’s paper the same crack about paying somebody not to do something that I used last week.  Yes of course I get ideas from other places but, when I can, I credit the actual source and I’d never re-use a joke like that without first giving it time to cool, even one as old as that.

On Tuesday, as I came back from London down the slow line that is single-track for the last 50 miles or so, hiding in sidings, waiting for delayed up trains to pass, I read the headline on an Evening Standard leader:  “HS2 is crucial to our future”.  Not mine, mate.

Then the week got even more surreal.

Margaret Court, a tennis player from the last century who holds the record of 24 major tournaments, is peeved that the court in the Melbourne Park sports venue named after Rod Laver is better than hers.  I wonder what hers is called?  Please say it isn’t the Court Court?

More than a third of income tax collected by the UK government now comes from just 1% of the people.  This means that if the top 1% paid twice as much tax, the government’s annual takings would increase by a third, which the next Chancellor might need.

Donald Trump Junior has written a book claiming the left is over-sensitive but, at a book signing last weekend, he demonstrated what shrinks might call ‘projection’ and scarpered when he was heckled by his own father’s supporters.  Actually, perhaps he’s not over-sensitive, he just suddenly wanted a pee.

Then Daddy Trump had an unscheduled medical.  At his last one, in February, his BMI of 30.4 officially qualified him as obese.  Do you think his therapist gets danger money?

Our erstwhile prime minister said in Birmingham how proud he was to be “where the industrial revolution started”.  The Lancastrian Jenny is now spinning in her grave, but I suppose it’s all north of Watford, which is close enough for Johnson.

Some of us sadists also enjoyed his being completely fazed by a question from Naga Munchetty in an interview on BBC Breakfast.  Most politicians are trained how to deal with ‘whoops questions’ but Johnson twitched and bumbled around for a frighteningly long time before finding something irrelevant to say.  Still, according to the Huffington Post, at least Tommy Robinson is now supporting him.

Remember Johnson is the man who, as Foreign Secretary, went to Iran and his only achievement was to betray Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with an unresearched remark that led to Iran’s extending her prison sentence.  He subsequently apologised to parliament for “the distress and anguish”, which was no comfort to anyone.

Now the Independent Office for Police Conduct has been asked to consider whether he should be investigated for misconduct in public office over his failure to declare his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri while he was mayor of London.  Sadly, they’re not going to do this until after he might have become our prime minister for another 5 years.

(Wouldn’t it be tragic if Uxbridge and South Ruislip chose a different MP at the election.)

Prince Andrew was also interviewed.  In a couple of extracts I saw, he shut his eyes in an extended blink a couple of times – fascinating body language.  In the interview, he categorically denied having sex with a 17-year old, saying he was having a pizza at the time.  It takes all sorts.

Lots of places north (and west) of Watford flooded when rivers overflowed – why do they say “burst their banks” when nothing actually burst?  Imagine having a cocktail of muddy water and sewage covering the ground floor of your house.   Ugh!

All this while California and Eastern Australia are burning to the ground.  What a pity we can’t export our surplus water to America and Australia?

An Observer journalist in her late 30s, Eva Wiseman, wrote a couple of weeks ago about discovering that the vision loss connected with her migraines was the result of a series of mini-strokes.  She wrote movingly about the difficulty of processing such a discovery so, as a regular reader of her column, I wrote her a brief email saying how sorry I was to hear this and wishing her well.  I received a short but kind thank-you note and, in her following week’s column, she wrote “Thank you to everyone who got in touch about last week’s column … I had hundreds of messages, each one more warm and lovely than the last.  I’m relaxing into the sympathy as if a hot bath.”

Surely a good example of how to start building the pyramids of kindness I mentioned a few weeks ago.

A paean to politicians and their election, suspected murderer held in Russia, grocers’ apostrophes and Emma Watson’s fake tattoo

10 November 2019

Where to start?  Another Dylan quote perhaps:  “I’ve been down in the bottom of a whirlpool of lies / I ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ in anyone’s eyes … It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”.  What Mr Dylan is saying here is of course that things could still get a lot darker and the whirlpool represents blah di blah di blah.

In other words, it’s electioneering time, a year away in America and a month in the UK, so all politicians in both countries are bigging themselves up and dissing their opponents, preferably simultaneously, and revelations abound.

Donald Trump has admitted buying a portrait of himself, sports memorabilia and champagne.  So far, so Trump, but he unfortunately took the money illegally from the Trump Foundation, a ‘not-for-profit’ organisation.  He denied doing anything wrong (now, there’s a surprise) but the New York attorney general disagreed and a judge ordered him to pay damages of $2m.

The day after the America began the process of withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, a statement co-signed by 11,000 scientists warned that humanity faces “untold suffering” due to the climate crisis and, even if planet-warming emissions are eliminated, sea levels will continue to rise regardless.  Farewell Norfolk, The Scillies and, for monied readers, the Maldives.

Despite a number of sworn testimonies that disagree with his version, Trump has also denied any quid pro quo in a discussion with Ukraine for his request to dig out some dirt on Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Most Republicans are publicly taking the “So what, that’s not an impeachable action” line but I’ll bet they’re not sleeping well at night.

Over here, Boris Johnson has been accused of a cover-up after refusing to release a report based on independent information from Britain’s intelligence agencies and third-party experts and prepared by the intelligence and security committee, on Russian infiltration in British politics, specifically Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 EU referendum.

Headlines in Tuesday’s papers included:

“PM accused of cover-up over report on Russian meddling in UK politics”,

“Tories accused of trying to mislead voters with letter’s selective quotes about NHS” and

“Johnson told ‘so many lies’, says Juncker”.

And concerns over Johnson’s friendship with technology entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri while he was mayor of London increased when the independent police watchdog delayed, until after the election, its announcement on whether the PM should face an investigation into possible criminal misconduct.  (It’s alleged Arcuri received favourable treatment due to her friendship with Johnson, including receiving large sums of public money for her technology firms, though Johnson has denied doing anything wrong – now, there’s another surprise.)

During a visit to Northern Ireland, Johnson told a group of businesspeople that his Brexit deal did not involve physical checks of goods, thereby demonstrating that he doesn’t even understand his own deal.  Well, either that or he’ll tell anybody anything he thinks they want to hear regardless of whether or not it’s true.  But would Boris tell a porky?  Is the pope a Catholic?

Sky News presenter Kay Burley reacted with fury when, having expected to be grilling Tory chairman James Cleverly, he failed to appear, obviously refusing to submit to nominative determinism.

There have also been allegations that the Conservative party has received Russian money via donations from emigrés living in the UK.  Examples given include the £160,000 paid by Lubov Chernukhin, wife of the former Russian deputy finance minister, at a Conservative summer party auction for a game of tennis with Johnson and David Cameron.

If I had that sort of money, I’d gladly give £160,000 (to a charity) not to play tennis with Cameron and Johnson.

On t’other side, in the absence of a published manifesto to bite on, the anti-semitism row continues to rumble along as Kate Ramsden, who had been standing as the Labour candidate for Gordon in Aberdeenshire, withdrew after Labour said she could face a disciplinary hearing.  What she had blogged was “To me, the Israeli state is like an abused child who becomes an abusive adult” and “Like child abuse, it has to stop … As we intervene with child abusers, the international community needs to intervene with Israel.”

How can this offend anyone?  I think she’s absolutely right so am I anti-semitic and, therefore, likely to start proposing a final solution?  Absolute bollocks.  Why can’t Jeremy Corbyn actually take a stand and explain the difference?  (The 2010 census revealed that only 58% of the population of Israel described themselves as more or less orthodox practising Jews*, with 42% saying they were “secular”, although slightly over half of these believe in God.)

If somebody says we should intervene in, say, the Ukraine, does this make them anti- individual members of the Eastern Orthodox church, or prejudiced against followers of any of the country’s other religions, or might it be that they just don’t like what the state is doing?  Let’s not conflate individuals with states – even though I live in the UK, I am still ashamed of ‘my’ state’s decision to invade Iraq.

The trouble is that Corbyn has to be pushed into deciding anything because he knows that whatever he says will upset some of his party.  The result is that he’s still acting like Norman Juster’s Triple Demons of Compromise – one tall and thin, one short and fat and the third exactly like the other two.  And now Tom Watson’s resigned …

On the fringes, Dominic Grieve, one of the disenfranchised Tories, is standing as an independent in the Beaconsfield and Marlow constituency and is, as he put it, trying to destroy his own majority as a Tory in the last election.

And Jacob Rees-Mogg’s nanny is still feeding him false information about the world outside, probably because she doesn’t know either.

Last year, he was stupid enough to say that food banks were a good thing because they demonstrate how caring society can be, and this week he remarked that those who died in the Grenfell tower lacked common sense:   “I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do,” he said.

Of course.  The fire service tells you to stay put because flats are supposed to be insulated so you don’t open a door on the 12th floor, increase the draught that helps spread the fire and then run through the smoke and flames before dying and blocking the stairs.  I realise that, with the benefit of hindsight, the advice was wrong, and deadly, but it was given in good faith at the time and I’d have followed it, and died.  It’s like Michael Gove’s problem with ‘experts’.  Perhaps I’ll offer to fix Gove’s teeth next time he needs a filling.

Much more worryingly, according to an 11-page briefing note leaked from party headquarters, Conservative candidates are being told not to sign up to specific pledges on protecting the NHS from privatisation, or trade deals or tackling climate change, presumably just in case their party’s manifesto bears as much relation to their reality as did Boris’s Brexit bus.

Let’s just add ‘None of the above’ to the bottom of every ballot paper – we’d probably end up with only about 20 MPs who would do a much better job as a group than our broken oppositional model ever did.

Meanwhile, in St Petersburg, a 63-year old university professor, Oleg Sokolov, got drunk and fell into the River Moika.  Police were able to save him and found his backpack contained a woman’s arms so they visited his flat where they found the decapitated body of Anastasia Yeshchenko, a 24-year old former student of his.  Investigators say he is suspected of murder.  Surely the evidence so far is circumstantial?

Talking of arms, Emma Watson demonstrated her personal convictions at last year’s Oscars ceremony with a temporary tattoo that read “Times Up” [sic] tattoo on her right arm.  She subsequently tweeted “Fake tattoo proofreading position available. Experience with apostrophes a must.”

Would that politicians could take life so unseriously.


*          Why does this remind me of whoever it was who, when asked if he was a practising homosexual, looked shocked and said “I don’t need to practise”?  Possibly Quentin Crisp?

Trump’s dream team, professor strips at airport, more about healing powers, fortune telling, and a spell

4 November 2019

Best headline this week:  “Boris struggles to get an election” though he did actually manage to get one after a lot of arm-waving.

Are you all registered to vote?  You can check if you’re already registered at your local electoral registration office whose details can be found at  If you’re not, you can register to vote at the government website

But isn’t it tragic that, as we’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, we’re simultaneously trying to erect border control checkpoints and tariff walls between Britain and Europe.  The checkpoint people have even been practising humiliating people who might be illegal aliens by getting Mary Beard, a Cambridge history professor to strip to her undies in public.

All we voters now have to do is decide whether our parliamentary system and our country can survive another five years with Boris Johnson as PM.  Or Jeremy Corbyn.  “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”

Still, the best idea came from the American president who believes that everybody should be able to interfere with everybody else’s elections and suggested of a triumvirate of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and him should be unbearable (sorry, I mistyped that, it should read unbeatable).  “Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing, for a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

To be fair, Johnson apparently turned the offer down after Donald Trump had proudly described in sickening detail the flight and death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who committed suicide and murdered two small children with a bomb but it later transpired that Trump hadn’t actually seen what he described, despite repeating the prurient detail of how al-Baghdadi had been “whimpering” and “crying” as he fled.  When he was found out, Trump made a hero out of a dog called Conan (whose name had been a state secret until then) who trod on some cabling and got an electric shock.

Our own local Conservative MP was so humiliated by a young, independent woman (shouldn’t you be at home getting supper for the children, dear?) at the last general election, he was recently pictured in the local paper looking sulky alongside an article saying he won’t be standing again.  Unlike him, our independent candidate not only lives in the constituency but was born here, has lived all her life in it and has always been active in the community.  She’ll get my vote.

Last week I said healing powers weren’t limited to “cranks with crystals” and it was only later I realised that some people might think my use of the word “cranks” was meant disparagingly rather than because of the irresistible alliteration.  Not at all.  I should probably have used a different word but I don’t think the methods healers use is important;  whether they use crystals (probably not the other thing I mentioned) or they imagine an army of tiny techies working away doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that they’ve found a way to channel their healing power in a way that can help them and others.  My way is to imagine a white light but that’s just what works for me.

It’s rather like fortune telling in that it doesn’t matter if somebody reads your hand or the Tarot or studies the lines on your face*.  They may have the power to learn something about you whatever method they use.  I’m less certain about their ability to see the future and I worry that people who ask for payment risk being unbalanced by the pressure to say something, anything, even if they’re not picking anything up.

When I was about 20, all my family had our fortunes told (individually) and, as soon as she looked at my hand, the reader said “You love water”, which is true:  I love being on it, in it, drinking it and, for as long as I can hold my breath, under it.  I can look at the sea and waterfalls and lakes and streams for hours.  She also said something in my neck was weak and I should look after it so, some decades later, I gave up smoking (twice) and then got neck dystonia.  She also told me when I’d die but luckily she was wrong about this or there’d be a terrible smell in here as I sit and write this.

Guess which British university employs a professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures.  Answer:  Exeter University.  She is Marion Gibson and is based at the Streatham Campus in Exeter but also teaches a specialist Witchcraft and Magic in Literature option at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.  Only in Britain?


*    Another Dylan line referenced for the benefit of aficionados

Great(ish) week for some, healing powers, clocks and time, great chocolates

27 October 2019

In the UK, the prime minister actually won a vote in parliament at last but he also lost the important one so it seems very unlikely Brexit will happen on 31 October.  Who thinks Johnson will die in a ditch and who thinks that was just another one of his ‘promises’, like the Boris bus NHS funding?

In Syria, as expected, following Donald Trump’s withdrawal of American troops, Turkey invaded the Kurdish part of Syria so, if they’re not first killed by Turkish tanks, rocket launchers and guns, Kurdish families can live in a safe border zone in Syria.  This is a meaning of ‘safe’ I hadn’t come across before.  However, Turkey and Russia have agreed this is fair so who gives a stuff about Syria or the Kurds?

Meanwhile, American forces found and killed the leader of ISIS who apparently chose three of his children to blow up at the same time as he blew himself up.  I wonder what the Prophet will have to say about that.

This week’s business news includes:

  • A former chief executive of Thomas Cook, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, who was behind the dodgy merger with MyTravel in 2007 and an unwise series of acquisitions, said it wasn’t his fault the company recently went bust. In his eight years as chief executive, he was paid £17m.
  • WeWork racked up losses of $3bn in the last three years. Its co-founder, Adam Neumann, is expected to be given about $1.7bn to leave the company as it plans to sack 2,000 people who will not be similarly compensated.
  • Deliveroo’s sales last year increased by 72% last year. Despite operating through 60,000 delivery riders, all self-employed with no guaranteed minimum wage, sick or maternity pay or pension scheme, it made a loss of £232m.  Its chief executive, Will Shu, received a pay increase of 57%.
  • Donald Trump has withdrawn his offer to host the next G7 meeting at his Trump National Doral “luxury resort” in Florida “at no cost to the US”. The resort’s income has fallen by two thirds since 2015.  Why do I still think his reluctance to produce his tax returns is because they’ll prove he’s a useless businessman and has lost a fortune?

In another, happier story from the business world;  Woodshed Burgers, a restaurant in Edmonton, introduced a new dish with cod, coleslaw and red onions and called it the Effing Filet O’ Fish.  It sold well for six months until Macdonalds’ lawyers wrote saying they were worried that Woodshed’s weekly sales of 30 Effing Filets O’ Fish in the wilds of Canada were “likely to cause confusion among customers” of Macdonalds’ 36,000 restaurants worldwide.  The owner, Paul Shufelt, naturally complied with their request and now sells McEffing Fish Filet.

Melanie Reid broke her neck and back in a riding accident in 2010 which left her tetraplegic. She has a weekly column in the Times colour magazine and recently wrote about the sudden and wholly unexpected return of movement in her right thigh muscle.

In the early years, she said she’d fall asleep visualising an “army of tiny techies … working away inside [her] neck, trying to fix everything” but, as time passed, they faded from her thoughts.   Such visualisation has been used by many people for many decades and I would get my children to use it when they’d hurt themselves or feeling ill because, even if it didn’t work, it took their minds off the discomfort.

Actually I do believe in the power of healing and that it’s not limited to a few cranks with crystals and vaginal eggs*.  I also believe we all have this power if we’re willing to give it a try.

Until the 19th century, clocks ran differently and showed different times in different places.  For example, clocks in Venice were always ½ hour ahead of clocks in Turin.  The arrival of railways running through different ‘time zones’ encouraged standardisation but the French continued to hold out until 1911 with the clocks outside Paris stations showed Paris Mean Time (so PMT was about 9 minutes out of synch with GMT which, is I’m told, not uncommon in those who suffer from it).  However, the railways actually ran five minutes behind the time shown outside so people who were late could still catch their trains.

I think I’ve mentioned before that clocks run more slowly the higher they are (because the earth’s gravity is less) so presumably, if it were possible to run trains over Mount Everest on time, they’d always arrive early.

And finally, an unpaid commercial for chocolate-lovers.  If you like really excellent chocolates for special occasions, try Miscos – see


*   Unfortunately, I saw the Japanese film Ai No Corida / In the Realm of the Senses before I heard of these things so I’ve never been able to take them seriously.