British competence, American ethics, the English language misused and a kindness award

2 February 2020

“An it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.

Thus wrote Shakespeare, who wrote at the end of the same soliloquy about “vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself.”

Perhaps Bonzo is descended from Macbeth.  It took three and a half years to get here and only now does the real work start.  What a pity that Michel Barnier, who’s a true gentleman, can’t be our prime minister in exchange for Bonzo, who isn’t.  Instead, he’s posturing, making it painfully obvious that he wouldn’t know how to negotiate his way out of a paper bag, let alone create trade deals.

Mind you, Shakespeare could have been wrong – he wasn’t even sure how to spell his own name:  only six of his signatures survive and they’re all spelt differently.

Still, we’ve got our 50p pieces of silver, even if it’s only because the Royal Mint doesn’t do 30p pieces, but remember Judas repented, which Great Britain hasn’t yet.

The aftershocks are already being felt.  On Friday morning, a racist poster appeared on all the fire doors in a block of flats in Norwich;  the rant included the instruction “We are now our own country again and the the (sic) Queens (sic) English is the spoken tongue here.”

The future of HS2 should be known this week and Bonzo revealed his own confusion last week, misquoting The First Law of Holes (popularised by the late Denis Healey) “When you’re in a hole, stop digging”, saying instead “In a hole the size of HS2, the only thing to do is keep digging.”  More proof, if any were needed, that he needs to engage his brain before opening his mouth.

A similar problem was caused recently by the management of West Suffolk Hospital who acted before thinking when it was downgraded by the Care Quality Commission from “outstanding” to “requires improvement”.  Competent management would take steps to improve their services but the hospital hired fingerprint and handwriting experts in an attempt to identify the whistleblower.

Even in America, the self-professed “land of the free”, only two Republican senators, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, actually felt free enough to put their principles before their fear of reprisals;  the other 51 Republicans voted to exclude witnesses from Donald Trump’s trial and won the day, natural enough for people who just want to keep their seats and don’t give a stuff about justice or the oaths they’d sworn.

Many Republicans thought their party was more important than their country and a couple voted to exclude witnesses not because they thought Trump was innocent but because they didn’t think his crimes were serious enough to warrant his being fired.  What does he have to do for heaven’s sake?

Trump had even produced evidence just a few days earlier of his total unfitness for office by producing a suggestion of peace between two warring nations in the Middle East after talking only to Israel, which is already illegally occupying Palestinian land, and not to Palestine.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is being indicted on charges of corruption, described Trump as “the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House” as he slipped a brown paper bag into Trump’s tiny hand.  Palestine doesn’t yet seem to have commented on one alleged criminal’s assessment of another.

Further evidence that Trump needs to change his brain surgeon came when reports emerged that he’s planning to reverse yet another of his predecessor’s best decisions and end America’s moratorium on the use of landmines.

A friend pointed out that, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump spoke of “the prophets of doom” while Greta Thunberg, in effect, spoke of the profits of doom.

Other abuses of the English language that tripped me up this week included:

  • a headline saying “Ant and Dec win 19th best presenter trophy”; I was almost, but not quite, tempted to ask Mrs Google who’d got the trophy for the best best presenter, and the second best presenter, and so on to the 18th best presenter.
  • Redferns, estate agents in Sidmouth, are advertising a house “within an easy walk of the nearby amenities”.  However they failed to say it’s also within a much longer walk of the amenities that aren’t nearby.
  • the guide book to our new(er) car says “The headlights can be turned to full-beam by using the appropriate stork behind the steering wheel.”   Presumably, if it’s too heavy, you can get a crane to help.
  • discussions continue about the absence of the Oxford comma from the inscription on the new 50p pieces, which actually does make a difference: contrast “He thanked his parents, Boris Johnson, and Anne Widdecombe” and “He thanked his parents, Boris Johnson and Anne Widdecombe”.

This week’s award for kindness goes to Guy Verhofstadt, the chief Brexit representative for the European parliament.  Back in September, after one of Bonzo’s more offensively racist insults, I emailed him a short apology and, some time later, received a charming and apparently personal reply thanking me and saying he will do what he can to limit the damage.  How tragic that Citizen Nobody is embarrassed enough to have to apologise for their prime minister, and how kind that Verhofstadt replied.

Then, last Friday, a film of two World War II veterans lamenting the UK’s departure from the EU, was projected onto the white cliffs of Dover.  As it ended, the stars on the European flag faded until only one was left above the inscription “This is our star. Look after it for us” and Verhofstadt responded by saying the bloc will do this for us.

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