Monday, 17 September 2018

Free coleslaw

I watched Michael Gove stroll into Pret a Manger today. Or should that be, I saw Michel Gove embraced by the all-consuming tentacles of Pret a Manger this morning? I digress...

I got a free portion of coleslaw at lunch today, when the dude on the till failed to realise that the shredded vegetables I had heaped upon my plate was not part of the fixed price "cheap-looking fish-cake and four crummy "new" potatoes" deal. The coleslaw was considerably tastier than the rest of the meal.

Could these two, seemingly random, pieces of great fortune be unrelated? Do they, in fact, signify some greater future ahead? I find it hard to ignore these signs, though divining what they signify is difficult.

It's been an interesting week or so. Last Monday I visited Port Talbot Steelworks. It is difficult to come up with objectives to describe the sheer scale of the thing. "Big" will have to do, I think. So big, in fact, that it's impossible to get an idea of exactly how big it is. You stand at one end of the rolling mill and see what you think what might be the other end of the rolling mill in the far distance, but your eyes simply aren't used to looking at things that big, and then you nearly get hit by 34 tonnes of red hot steel shooting along a set of rollers at implausible speed and have to stop peering into the distance and start obeying the safety instructions.

At the weekend I mixed sand and mud to form an appropriate substrate for our tortoise table. Prior to this the tortoises were living in straw which is not a proper substrate. They seem a lot happier to have sandy soil to root around in. I also built them a small humidity chamber to prevent pyramiding but it remains to be seen as to whether they want to spend any time in it. I need some sphagnum moss. Sphagnum. There's a good Scrabble word.

I must put sphagnum, and Michael Gove, and rolled steel, and coleslaw to the side for a week, however. These things must be parked, for the onset of sukkot means, for our family, the onset of birthday parties, and these need careful planning. All my mental energies (when not focused on Energy Innovation) must be directed to pass the parcel and where to source a piƱata

If I blog again before Sunday remind me not to. That parcel needs wrapping.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Not all Greek

Red figure vases, Assyrian relics and Egyptian mummies were the highlights.

The kids enjoyed it.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

In case of rain, break art

The parthenon friezes. Arguably the outstanding example of human artistic expression. A masterwork combining imagination, a mathematical understanding of perspective and supreme craftsmanship. The crowning glory of ancient Greece.

But will 4 under 8s see it that way?

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

What could go wrong?

A free haircut.

Well, the youth have to learn on somebody's head, so why not mine? I have an /extremely/ fine head of hair. Thick and lustrous. With a hint of of the sensual. Er, OK.

My experience thus far is sitting and waiting but I did overhear "I'll just fetch a plaster" which wasn't all that reassuring.

If you don't see me in public for weeks feel free to assume it didn't go well.

Referendum addendum

“In the unlikely event of Jeremy Corbyn having a heart attack and Chuka Umunna taking over, he says the objective is to be in the European Economic Area. Why would we refuse?”

Monday, 30 July 2018

I want a referendum (which I don't want)

Everyone else seems to have written a screed on Brexit, so why can't I?


Okay then.

[There's a baked-in assumption here that Brexit is, net, bad for the UK (in the short and medium term, at least). Feel free to disagree]

A referendum. A gritted teeth referendum. Referenda are stupid. I suspect we need another one.

Not, I hasten to add, a referendum where UK membership of the EU is on the ballot paper. We had that one. 'We' lost.

I hope that, in the not too distant future, we join the EU because Parliament decide to. (Assuming that they let us. Assuming that the EU still exists to let us.) I don't want another EU membership referendum, any more than I want a referendum on the death penalty, or MPs pay, or tax policy, or anything. No, thank you.

Any referendum where EU membership is on the ballot is lose/lose, I think. If Brexit won it would be a waste of time. If they lost, Farage, Johnson and Co. would be able to indulge in the 'stab in the back' myth they so desperately crave. They want to lose. None of the ardent Brexiteers is in the slightest bit interested in the UK, post-Brexit, which is why Johnson and Davis walked away to snipe from the side-lines, and Farage spends most of his time trying to impress Steve Bannon.

They want to be martyrs. (Living, of course). Martyrs for the nationalist cause, like Yaxley-Lennon.

'Remain' winning a re-run would be worse, for the fabric of my country, than losing. I think. I think this because it would give all the shits a cause to rally around. Too horrible to contemplate for long (thankfully it is cooler this week so I am sleeping more soundly).

So, to re-cap, yes/no, again, is toxic.

There is, I think, another way out. The EU is willing to offer the UK membership of the EEA (assumption - EEA members could be persuaded to let the UK join). This is A.

The EU has already stated it is willing to offer a free trade deal, presumably along the lines of the one that Canada has. This is B.

In a functioning democracy you'd think that Parliament would be able to weigh up the pros and cons of A and B, and decide. The current Government can't do this because to admit that A & B are the only options that are really on the table is to tell the public it can't have everything it wants without consequences, and getting elected is all about telling the public 4 incompatible things before breakfast (yes, you can have a fully funded NHS, a triple-lock state pension, low taxes and we'll slash the deficit!). Plus half of the Tories want A and the other half are so virulently opposed to the concessions that A would entail that they are willing to be very nasty to the PM indeed, and perhaps even subject her to a leadership challenge she'd win.

It's not clear* if Her Majesty's Opposition believe they can negotiate the economic benefits of A but the freedoms from EU law offered by B, or are just pretending that they can for political reasons (or for a laugh, though Jeremy doesn't seem like a very witty guy), but the effect is the same. Neither party, right now, is in favour of A or B, but rather favours the not very common 'free gym membership' model where you quit and stop paying but still want to use all the machines you liked from before, when you were a member. And the showers. But not the personal training sessions. Except on Tuesday's when they aren't fully booked. Also, we want the floor re-tiled by our mate Darren, who is pretty good at that sort of thing.

I never go to the gym.

So we can have A or B. MPs, of both parties, want MAGICAL THINKING because coming off the A/B fence would cost them votes. And Theresa has held on to her job by sitting on that fence so hard she, er, has physically metamorphosed into a metaphor for someone who spends a lot of time sitting on a fence. Like a stylite. But without the glamour.

Which is why, regretfully, I get to the point. And why, regretfully, I think an A or B referendum is the most sensible way out.

You can hardly scream betrayal if we've left the EU, like we voted, and then the same electorate votes for a relationship with the EU which you don't like. Furthermore, a referendum on two very clearly defined relationships with the EU doesn't (so far as I can see) need to be held in some insane rush between now and March 2019. Barnier could offer us B (with some form of Irish backstop**) with the option to move to A in 2021 if we decided to in time (presumably mid-2020?).

The referendum to end all referenduasae? I doubt it. But it might be a way to move to a sensible*** (i.e. broadly status quo) arrangement in a way that is equally democratic and transparent to the stupid vote**** that got us here in the first place.

And if Farage kicked off we could tell him, "Please don't thwart the will of the people." (I was going to write something ruder there, but I think being scrupulously polite to Farage and his ilk is essential. He drinks in a pub I like. I was going to stop going there, but what would that have proved?)

So, to wrap up, er, yes. We should join the EEA. It will take a national vote to get there. I think that's a better outcome than trying to re-fight the referendum. And if 'Canada' beat 'Norway' in another vote, we'd all have to suck it up and make the best of it.

* when it comes to "Her Majesty's Opposition" very little is clear, I think.

** Hey! I may be a Civil Servant but I never claimed to be an expert on international trade law!

***  If you think such a thing is more sensible that Canada, or no deal. You might not.

**** A vote I thought was not a bad idea, having not, like David Cameron, thought the consequences through.

Failed public drinking

I'm afraid I've spent a significant chunk of time on SouthWest  Trains today yesterday with nothing but my phone and a notepad to keep me company. So there's rather more Blog output than usual.

For starters

Me: "Doom Bar?"
Trolley Man: "Nope. Tanglefoot?"
Me: "Cider?"
Trolley Man: holds up horrible looking fruit cider
Me: "Urgh. Gin and tonic?"

Trolley Man: holds up tiny tin of pre-mixed Gordon's - there is no obvious ice or slice in sight
Me: "OK. I'll have a Tanglefoot please."
Trolley Man: hands me a Tanglefoot. "Cash or card?
Me: waves phone
Trolley Man: frowns
Me: getting desperate "Card?"
Trolley Man: "I'm sorry sir. It's the weather sir."
Me: ?
Trolley Man: helpless shrug
Me: passes Tanglefoot I never wanted to drink anyway back
Trolley Man leaves
Me: "Well, that was a waste of time"
Passenger next to me: grunts