15 November 2020
The winds have changed
In the original Mary Poppins books, before that ghastly 1964 film with Julie Andrews playing her as ‘diabetes on a stick’ and Dick van Dyke doing the worst cockney accent ever (“I wish somebody had told me” he’s been quoted as saying later), she said she’d leave when the wind changed and did, with no thought for the children she was abandoning. I loved the books but she was as hard as nails, ruthlessly enforced discipline (“Spit spot, off to bed”) and would take the children on magical trips and later deny they’d ever happened. Nowadays she’d probably be locked up.
The winds are also changing in America and the UK and our own dear Boris TrumpLite thoughtfully prepared two letters of congratulation to the new US president in advance, depending who won, which seems reasonable. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to him to prepare two separate notes and, when the result was known, he partially overwrote the Donald Trump one substituting Joe Biden’s name, leaving the original still faintly visible.
Despite his need for a good relationship with the new president, Boris Johnson hasn’t helped the UK by having got too close to Trump and Joe Biden is already on the record as having described Johnson as the “physical and emotional clone of Donald Trump”, he is very protective of the Good Friday agreement and as horrified as the rest of us that the British parliament would even consider debating a Bill that breaks the law.
Johnson’s even fallen out with Dominic Cummings and fired him, about six months too late, though this is par for the course: he does after all have an unmatched record for doing too little too late, locking us down too late, releasing us too early, locking us down for a second time too late, failing to provide enough PPE the first time round and introducing a hugely expensive track and trace system that doesn’t work. He’s also admitted it won’t be possible to vaccinate all the most vulnerable people although he did qualify this by saying the new Pfizer vaccination is still in its “very, very early days … [and] we absolutely cannot rely on this news as a solution.”
Demographically, my wife and I are in the most vulnerable group but I’d rather that all NHS staff and others ‘at risk’ are vaccinated before we are, and that all private sub-contractors to the NHS are required to pay the full ‘market price’ for vaccinating their staff.
Johnson’s now completed his nineteenth nervous breakdown as we learn that more than 50,000 people have now died of Covid-19 in the UK, more than in any other EU country. Any day now, Michel Barnier is likely to say “You can have anything you want if we complete Brexit tomorrow and the EU can then protect itself from the UK by controlling all people, animals, goods, drugs, services, and stupid ideas coming into the EU from the UK”.
A recent survey showed that, if they knew then what is obvious now (such as the existence of Northern Ireland), many people would have voted differently in the referendum with 54% wanting to remain and 46% wanting to leave. But we live “down on the bottom of a world full of lies” (Bob Dylan’s words) and it’s too late.
But the Yorkshire Ripper (whom I refuse to dignify with a name) is dead. His identity was known for a long time before he was arrested because John Humble, a Geordie, sent the police some letters and a tape containing detail that Copper No. 1 didn’t think had been released to the public and decided their chief suspect couldn’t be the killer because he didn’t have a Geordie accent.
This combination of an incompetent senior police officer and a hoaxer allowed the Ripper to kill three more women even though the police ignored Humble’s own anonymous tip-off that the ‘confessions’ were a hoax.
Humble tried to kill himself but was finally caught, went to prison for 8 years and drank himself to death 5 years later.
I always felt rather sorry for the Ripper’s wife who didn’t seem to know it was him until after he’d been arrested. Despite being a teacher, she doesn’t seem to have been the sharpest pencil in the box and didn’t divorce him till 1994. She remarried in 1997 but is still living in the house they shared while her husband refuses to join her there and lives elsewhere.
I also (almost) felt sorry this week when Trump unexpectedly appeared the day after it was announced that almost 11 million Americans had tested positive and almost a quarter of a million had died from Covid-19. In his short absence, he’s dyed his hair grey and has perfected the little pouty mouth that looks exactly like a dog’s bottom
At the press conference, he emphasised what wonderful progress he’d made in controlling the coronavirus outbreak and hinted, possibly inadvertently, that he might ultimately accept the election result but, presumably, not until he’d finished destroying everything he could and giving Trumpites top jobs.
Trump is also begging: he’s set up a GoFundMe electoral defence fund claiming “President Trump needs YOU to step up to make sure we have the resources to protect the integrity of the election.” Actually, the small print says that only half the money will go to the recount fund and the other half will help pay off his election debts.
Basically, the loudest noise in America since the election has been the cheering of Trump’s lawyers (and, cynics suspect, Melania’s).
Another historical precedent is about to be set: the vice-president’s spouse has always before been known informally as ‘the second lady’ so Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris’s husband, will become ‘the second gentleman’. Isn’t that cute. Our Prime Ministers’ spouses don’t have ‘titles’ but, given Johnson’s coccentric record, perhaps Carrie Symonds should become known as Prime Ministress.
Coincidences are strange things and sometimes border on ‘magic’. Carl Jung believed in ‘synchronicity’, a concept that claims apparently meaningful coincidences may highlight links with internal psychological processes and carry messages, just as dreams sometimes do. Whether you believe this or not, some coincidences are certainly weird.
I stayed in touch with one of my best friends from my teens until her death earlier this year and we’d meet once or twice a year or write letters (remember them?) when she was abroad with her husband. (“Me?” she exclaimed in surprise many years later, “I never wrote letters”, so I gave her all I’d kept.) After their retirement to the UK in the 1990s we still kept in touch so I knew her husband was ill and, when I realised it’d been several months since we’d last spoken, I rang her and she said he’d died the previous day.
Then, this summer, I dreamt of a couple I’d known for about the same length of time though our contacts had been limited to quick messages scrawled on Christmas cards and, apart from one lunch, we hadn’t met for many decades and I rarely even thought of them. This seemed somehow significant so I emailed them and she said her husband had died the previous night.
(I should say that friends and people I know often have bit parts in my dreams but I don’t wake the next day wondering how they are and if I should contact them to find out. And when my lovely friend did die unexpectedly this year, I had no premonition and was shocked rigid when her daughter rang to tell me the following day.)
At least it’s unpredictable and uncontrollable; I don’t really know if I’d want to be able to do it to order.