Alan Sugar’s encouragement to vote for Corbyn as PM, station car parks are changing, why climate change is unavoidable and Gmail’s automated responses

3 March 2019

Somebody who had met him once told me that Alan Sugar (that’s Lord Sugar to you) is a genuinely not nice man but he has recently threatened to leave the country if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister, which must be the best reason I’ve heard for keeping Corbyn as the Labour leader and then voting Labour at the next election.  Or, come to think of it, voting for anybody at the next election.  With both the biggest parties committing hara-kiri, leaving their eviscerated members spilling all over the floor in Westminster, there is a real temptation to despair so I’m going to devote this week’s blog to happier things.

As many of you may know, the railway line between Taunton and Exeter is closed at the moment while they steam-clean (or something) the tunnel so I had to go up the Waterloo line last week to a trustees’ meeting in London.  On the evening before the meeting, I took a bus up to Dalston (get off at this stop saith my son, without explaining it wasn’t on my usual route so I had to ask several very helpful locals which way to go) and I saw my grandbaby, now almost 12 weeks old, for the second time.  She slept on my arm for 40 minutes while I experienced how Judy has to eat:  sitting slightly too far from your food and eating one-handed with the wrong hand.

I also noticed that, according to the ticket issued by the machine in the station car park, I was parked at Honiton Parkway Station, presumably to differentiate it from … er … all the other stations in Honiton?  And that, as a ‘Parkway’ station, it’s nowhere near the town whose name it’s claiming, like Bristol and Tiverton, or possibly not since it’s only 4 minutes’ walk from the High Street.

Schoolchildren have recently been demonstrating to protest at the abject failure of – well, everybody everywhere really – to take climate change seriously and they managed to get the subject debated in parliament.  With their usual sense of priorities, only about 40 MPs attended the debate, with about 10 MPs on the government benches.  So more than 90% of MPs don’t care that London will be underwater by 2100.

Talking of which, Chris Grayling’s name has been scathingly rhymed with ‘failing’ in recognition of his considerable contributions to the destruction of the probation service, banning books for prisoners, overseeing months of chaos for railway passengers following the introduction of new timetables, saying that B&B owners should have the right to refuse people of colour because “we need to allow people to have their own consciences” (he actually said “gay people” not “people of colour” but imagine if he had), awarding a £14m contract for ferry services to a pizza delivery company without any ships and saying it was OK because the Government hadn’t had to pay anything before discovering that the Government will actually have to pay £33m compensation to Eurotunnel and, most recently, having to be stopped from going into the wrong lobby in a Commons vote.  Could he perhaps now change his name to Grayled to allow a more apposite rhyme?

Does anybody else have a Gmail account that suggests possible responses to incoming emails?  I got an email from our gardener yesterday saying “I have been laid up with a stomach infection for the last couple of days…”  The possible replies offered were:

No problem, hope you feel better.

Get well soon.

That’s fine, thanks for letting me know.

This must mean there’s a very clever algorithm that scanned the email, connected the words “I” and “infection” and offered appropriate replies (if you think “no problem” is appropriate).

What irritates me isn’t so much that the suggested replies aren’t appropriate, or even that all our emails are being monitored (we knew that anyway), it’s that I want to use my own words and now have to consciously use different words from Gmail’s so it doesn’t look as if I just clicked on one of them.  Pretty soon these algorithms won’t need any human intervention at all and can chunter away to each other without needing to bother us at all.  They might even end up writing ‘Hamlet’.

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