Relaxing Sunday

That’s what I hoped. It’s not really working out that way. I moved here nearly three years ago. Having some time to spare I decided to spring clean! It’s a bit late but I’m always slow. Started in the airing cupboard, where I’d thrown a lot of boxes, stuffed with those last-minute odds and ends I’d found as I was rushing through my old house on the last day. They’d not been touched since.

What a delight. As I took each item out of a box memories came flooding. There was a super-slim me selling books to a beautiful woman. Taken when I was at university, and we had just published ‘A Students Guide to Success at Geography’. A joint effort by five students at LSE.  I made the Guardian newspaper with an article I’d written about how boys and girls should apply to their college of choice. The Guardian had a feminist page in those days, and its editor regarded my entry as sexist. It wasn’t. That didn’t matter, the publicity meant we sold all our print run. It was my introduction to publishing. Sitting on the floor cutting and pasting copy to send to the printer, having written articles during college lectures.

There was a lovely bunch of photos taken when I led a scientific expedition to the Lake District. We surveyed all the upland water bodies (small lakes). We did a plane table survey: take two points to triangulate to a third unknown point. It’s a slow process, but accurate. In the Royal Geographic Society library I’d found a handwritten account of a British surveyor, with two Indian helpers, who’d walked from Peking up into Mongolia, in about 1880, surveying as they went. Fascinating. If I still paid the fees I’d use my Fellowship to find that text, and republish it.

We’d also taken a canvas boat, all rolled up in a tube. Looked OK until we had to put it in a rucksack, on someone’s back and walk up steep hills. Image a ten foot tall person, with no stability. It was perilous, and dangerous. As a result I designed a small catamaran, four pods, each of which fitted over a rucksack, and two poles. Back home I worked with an engineering student to make a prototype. We used galvanised tin, used to make ductwork, as I was then working as a quantity surveyor and had access to such material. Never did get it made commercially. It’s still an option, for one day.

I’m frustrated at present: the web site software is posing problems, and I can’t load any pictures, but I will soon.

The airing cupboard has left me a great assortment of gear. At the bottom was a box of kitchen cleaning materials and shoe cleaning brushes and creams.

I hope you’ll excuse me stopping now, as I have plenty of work to do in my kitchen, which is deserves a good clean.

World Cup

Immediate Reactions: Day Two

Over-excited

BBC radio commentators should not get so excited. They are there to communicate.Keep calm, talk with urgency and strength. Stop shouting.

On ITV there’s been a Scot (I presume) whom I find very difficult to understand. I’m lazy, and don’t want to concentrate upon speech when my eyes are watching football.

Can anyone tell me of a World Cup team (so far) that doesn’t have a player linked to our football league? Does that tell you something? How can we win when our league is peopled by foreign players? Anyway, are they allowed to take our money abroad?

Professional fouls

These continue to happen, and are increasingly tolerated. They spoil the game. Either

1) Send the offender off immediately, perhaps to a Sin Bin for a period of time, or

2) Allow all fouls without penalty. No matter what is said, some players and teams seem to rely upon such fouls.

3) Praise to Russia. They look as if they will do a good job. There’s no real reason to regard Russia as the enemy. They have a bad human rights record, but so do other countries; USA, North Korea, and Israel spring to mind.

4) Such international events should always be shown on the BBC. That remains our national broadcaster, and if you own a TV or watch online, you must have a licence. There’s no reason why other TV channels should be able to exclude the BBC just because they pay huge sums of money.

The Party’s Over

My dinner party was a great success. Snippets of that will appear as I scrawl my latest thoughts.

This week has seen the awful results of this Government’s decisions rising to the surface like plastic waste. Inward investment has been described as relevant, my local BBC TV Look East boasts that 59 new projects have been financed by foreign investors. The same day Jaguar and Rover announce they are moving production to the Czech Republic. The Czech’s are jubilant. British jobs, and our invaluable skills, will be lost in order to satisfy the short-term profit of a small coterie of investors.

Is it wrong to suggest that the national interest should come first? This is an era of globalisation. It has become one of exploitation. Privatised industries do not work. The much maligned nationalised utilities provided a better service at a lower price, even though the Treasury routinely stole any profit, allowing them all to degrade. Our NHS is slowly being starved, and privatisation allowed to creep in. Our retail industry is creaking, and will collapse unless action is taken.

It’s not a happy situation, and you all know I could rabbit on about the inequalities that are an ever-growing threat. Remember it’s not that many years ago that the industrial revolution condemned the poor to increased penury and the rich owners were allowed to wallow in their estates. Now they pass their mansions over to the National Trust, and charge the poor to see the results of their forebears labour.

National pride has been lost. There are glimmers of hope. Gareth Southgate may bring home some kudos from Russia. I hope he does. My dinner party this week was very successful. I now have a clean and shiny home, after 3 or 4 days of intensive domestic labour. Local shopkeepers have made a few bob, although restaurateurs are shaking their fists.

Shopping has been interesting. Supermarkets hide food. They want to sell ‘added value’ so everything is now gaudily packaged to attract the overworked customer. ‘Don’t wait in a queue’ a lovely sales assistant urges, ‘come here to the self check-out’. She doesn’t realise that her job will be lost as a result. We will buy online so that programmed slaves, like those stuck in a booksellers warehouse, can be exploited and make greater profits for owners and investors.

My antipasta went down well, even though my fridge and store cupboard now contains all the stuff I forgot to serve. Today I shall feast on asparagus, chicken kebab, and left-over mackerel. The slow cooker worked wonders on the shoulder of lamb, even though the young butcher made a hash of removing the bones. Herbs from the garden, a bottle white wine, and garlic (always garlic with lamb) had my guests cooing with delight. Just shows what eight hours sitting on a light bulb can do for their taste buds.

There is still joy in the world. The sun is shining. Young birds are exploring the garden. Cats provide sport for a water pistol (cats must realise they cannot kill 250 million birds without personal cost). I’m off to an old-time musical, at the local sailing club. Last week it was a bluegrass band.

Look local. Buy and enjoy local food. Relish the talents we have in our great country.


Dinner Party

Beverley Nicholls held three dinner parties a year. Not wishing to emulate his lifestyle, although he was very privileged, I do share his passion for food, and good company.

This week I shall host a small dinner party. That’s always exciting. My circle of friends is small, and most are beautiful ladies. Not sure why, I don’t feel like a lecherous old man, although that is just my own opinion. In any case I love my friends, even though I no longer have any desire to physically ravish any of them, however attractive they may appear.

It was a random decision. I knew I was going to be alone for at least a week, and my place needed to be tidied. That’s the first requirement: I must be motivated, spurred into action. A good friend says of me ‘he will do anything for others, but rarely does anything for himself’. I’m getting better; I now shower, shave and dress in clean clothes every day. I also try to keep my place tidy. There’s the rub!

However tidy I try to be it’s always untidy. Waste-paper baskets remain crammed, I know there’s a lump of uneaten brisket festering in a slow cooker in the kitchen; that I can’t be troubled to remove. Or perhaps I know it will be too much trouble? Books, papers, odd pieces of equipment, remain where I placed them, ages ago. I am a slob!

That’s one reason for a dinner invitation. I’m then motivated to tidy up my place. That always takes me much longer than expected, but I’ve learnt to start cleaning at least three days before the big event.

Slowly the tension rises. Planning a menu, I flick through the Web and my collection of books, ignoring the recipes provided by celebrity cooks; they are always too expensive, even if you can get past the turbot (excuse me fishmonger, do you have any turbot today?) and caviar, or truffles. Not sold in my local shops. They will then spend money on all those ‘extras’ that make the dish, usually costly items that must be used before they decay, and which the chef suggests just need to be sprinkled over the dish at the last minute. What shall I do with the stuff I don’t use for that menu? Wait until its grown an overcoat then add to the compost? Yes, that’ll do.

Menu planned. It’s now time to go shopping. My favourite butcher has just gone out of business, they pushed up his rent and rates beyond reason, and he’s scarpered. The other favourite is closed on Monday. I want a shoulder of lamb. Stupid of me really. This country now sends all its lamb abroad often still alive, to be slaughtered in the halal fashion by a man who’s never yielded a knife before. I shudder for those poor creatures. Upshot of farmer’s greed is that we can no longer buy our best lamb. It’s a disgrace.

I like shopping. Unfortunately my basic menu plan is corrupted as I waddle from one shop to the next, laden with more and more interesting titbits. Starter was to be smoked peppers on soda bread. I’d found the Spelt flour at home (used by the Romans, y’know). It has now turned to an array of antapasta dishes we can share. That’s quadrupled preparation time already. No ricotta to be found anywhere but I do find buffalo mozzarella, and pasta shapes going cheap. OK, there will be some modification. Buying the lamb must wait until tomorrow. I’ll put it into a slow cooker (suitably cleaned and sterilised), with loads of garlic and herbs. Hope I can get it boned. It’s a job I never relish, as I’ve never got one of those vicious knives held in the fist, in a stabbing action, used by butchers.

Pudding? I’ve invited three women, so it must be chocolate. A mousse, perhaps? I found a bottle of creme de menthe in the cupboard. I wonder if they all like peppermint chocolate? Not sure. They are a fickle lot, and I have to retain a memory of the likes and dislikes of each one. No mushrooms. No pork or beef, although she will will eat lamb and venison. Hmm. Fish can be difficult, and I normally have to ask as I issue the invitation. Shellfish is relished by some, hated by others. Best left, and anyway I’m thinking about pudding. Something chocolate. Hmm.

I bought some Sicilian cheese from a street market in Manningtree yesterday, so some goat cheese, a lump of  Cheddar, a few biscuits and grapes will see that sorted.

Nibbles to start: I have Quinoa crisps and olives. We’ll see if they work. Coffee maker better come out of storage, and I can then offer a selection of capsules. I’ll be prepared for the environmental sneers.

However the local supermarket (Waitrose!) has 25% off wines. I buy seven bottles: all are organic, online to be collected tomorrow Status restored. They will all bring wine, making ten bottles for four of us. Should be enough. They will all walk home, to be sober up!

Entertaining is so much fun!

Vicar’s Daughter has failed

We are all bored by the arguments within the Cabinet, and elsewhere, about Brexit. The current policy (if one exists) is looking in the wrong direction.

Nation State

The UK remains a class-ridden society. Those concerned with our future relationship with Europe tend to be those with investments or interests abroad. For most of us Europe is a great place for a holiday, if we can overcome the avaricious demands of budget airlines.

Our real concerns are with this country. Our government and the hedge fund man who shares the Vicar”s Daughter’s bed don’t think the same way. They want profit, from wherever it can be found.

It’s hard to buy British lamb because most is sent abroad, some still on the hoof, which is inexcusable for an animal-loving country like Britain. About half of UK businesses are now foreign owned, and we allow multi-nationals to take our money then craftily  base themselves in Eire (or elsewhere) and pay no tax in the UK. What’s the government doing about that? Cadburys was sold to a US company, who have changed the products, taken well over four billion abroad, yet failed to pay any UK tax. It’s a travesty.

What must be done now

Britain first. Let’s get our own house in order before we worry about the demands of others. We have enough folk to cope. What’s lacking is motivation. This government, controlled by a parsimonious Chancellor, led by a submissive woman who has achieved success by keeping her head down and avoiding conflict. We don’t need her now. We need strong leadership, with a clear vision of the future.

Unfortunately we don’t have a politician with those abilities.

Where are we Going?

One of the benefits of old age is that you no longer have really care. It’s a time to be dispassionate about the troubles of the world. In a foreseeable future we will no longer be here.

It’s a good time to tell the truth. In my town we have the largest port in the country. Last month they installed two cranes, this month they are taking delivery of eight contraptions that will trundle containers around the port. These all operate automatically. What will happen to the workers who operate these machines? They will disappear.

Nobody has mentioned the consequences of such robots arriving.

Yesterday I was urged to use a self-service checkout at a supermarket. The staff member, a lovely lady who needs her job, doesn’t realise that it may soon disappear.

The United Kingdom is getting more obese by the day. Look on the shelves of supermarkets. Food is a rare commodity. Processed food, with added value, now occupies most of the shelves.

Personally I’ve joined a slimming course. I just need to lose 100 pounds! I’m dismayed by the remarks of my fellow fatties; ‘I can’t do without something sweet’; ‘McDonalds do offer healthy options’; ‘I love pizzas’. So it goes on. They respond to advertising. None of them like cooking. Many watch celebrity chefs on the box. They all feel sorry for themselves, and are keen to place blame for their grossness elsewhere.

The power of advertising.

With March 2019 we will (apparently) leave the EU.The USA is poised to take over our agriculture and our health care.

Beware.

USA Import tariffs

President Trump is playing a simple game, unfortunately there will be consequences. Looking back over his business career he’s not been too successful, there are a large number of failures. In business they can be regarded as normal, particularly if you are a large client.

As a national President he’s playing a dangerous game. Europe is larger than the USA, Chine is much larger, and don’t forget all the others, including India and the whole of South America, let alone the Commonwealth countries.

The USA may see itself as the major global player. It may get a shock. This could be the start of the end of US domination. There’s been tolerance of this ‘Johnny Come Lately’ but the worm will turn

We must wait for the measured responses that must arrive. They may not be obviously confrontational, but will show a growing resistance to US pressure.

Dangerously this Trump exercise could just be a bluff. For the UK the major markets that the USA wants to exploit are agriculture and health. We must vigorously resist such incursions. Our food is, by and large, wholesome and free from chemicals. US products are not so perfect. The NHS is sacrosanct, even if our present government believes it can be fragmented to allow private industry to grab attractive slices. Most UK citizens would baulk at the idea of an American style free access health-care.

This may be a time when the EU shows it has guts. It needs to fight back. Take USA out of the market and there’s still huge opportunities. Sanctions could, perhaps should, be imposed on the USA. It would be good to see a few bloody noses but that’s not what global trade is about.

It’s time to be more inward looking. To care more about this country.

Daily Express newspaper?

A look at the Daily Express website (https://www.express.co.uk/) and all looks well. There’s a good range of reports, covering a number of topics. Look closely and you begin to see selectivity at work: yesterday 30th May 2018 the lead article was about cold-callers. It announced that the government were going to look at this menace, but no legislation was immediately planned. The front page picture showed a family of 20 children, with another on the way. Prodigious effort or not helping the over-population problem? The paper makes no comment.

Are these news? In both cases they are about to happen. News? I’m not sure. The rest of the paper is a mixture of tittle-tattle, mostly about celebrities, and sport. British people love sport, and they will pay for the privilege of seeing stars perform: very few are British, it’s rare for a footballer to have been born in this country, let alone in the town or city he is alleged to represent. Isn’t that something of a Pound Drain? They take our money back to their own countries. In Rwanda they are suggesting that Arsenal should carry their logo and are willing to pay for that dubious privilege, so something will come back, perhaps.

Should the ‘red top’ newspapers (and the Daily Mail) be allowed to use the name newspaper? It’s questionable.

I went to the Suffolk Show yesterday https://suffolkshow.co.uk/. It’s always a nostalgic visit. The machines get bigger, especially the crop sprayers which have killed too many insects. I never have to clean my car windscreen these days. It’s dreadful destruction, and farmers now make money from oil seed rape, the bright yellow splahed all over our rolling Suffolk countryside.

Thunderstorms promised today, although they tend to miss our peninsular.

USA and Europe to join the Commonwealth

It’s easy to be proud, even complacent about our nation. Not that we do that very often in England. Recent decades have seen us far more worried about integrating new arrivals and creating linkages with others.

It was disappointing to see that we may not be so involved with some European projects – like Gaia http://sci.esa.int/gaia/ a fantastic telescope, created by the European Space Agency, Gaia is an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. Gaia will provide unprecedented positional measurements for about one billion stars – about 1 per cent of the Galactic stellar population – in our Galaxy and Local Group, together with radial velocity measurements for the brightest 150 million objects.

This week it has displayed some of its first results. A 3-D map of the Milky Way, which is already revealing new information. Next week, on 25th April, the second batch of data will be released.

What I love about this sort of science is not that it’s immediately pundered and exploited for personal (or company) gain. It is widely available, for everyone to use.

This last weekend has seen the marriage between our Prince Harry and Megan Markle (now the Duchess of Sussex), a US citizen with multi-racial ancestry.

There’s one enormous suggestion I’d like to make: that the USA make Prince Harry a US citizen, and then creates a monarchy, using this Prince and his Duchess as the start of a dynasty.

The USA is inherently unstable. It’s not a happy country. Many reasons for that, but it’s dependence upon personal wealth has been a contributing factor, and respectable role models have been sadly lacking.

Our Royal Family has a history, but it has also adapted to a modern world. Using this model we could move forward to a time of peace and prosperity. A significant choice is that the Royal couple did not invite any politicians to the ceremony. They know that egos get in the way of history. They were not needed.

Can we forget 1776, when the French colluded with renegade settlers to push out a German king? We have Commonwealth of some 57 countries, each ethnically diverse. Let’s welcome the United States of America into our club, and show their people there is a better way to love.

Selling England

Keep Calm, Start a RvolutionOne of the unforeseen results of Brexit is now beginning to raise its ugly head. We are now very vulnerable. The rich boy team led by Cameron made a virtue of inward investment. A slightly mad version of economics that relied upon globalisation as its major tenet.

Now over a quarter of large UK companies are foreign owned. It’s suggested that these companies assist the British economy. Unfortunately these benefits are too often outweighed by loss of control, and reduced local influence. Short-term gain to get an ailing administration out of trouble brings small advantage to our national wealth.

One horrible example is the sale of Cadburys to the USA. Manufacturing has been transferred to other countries, which are cheaper. The products have been changed beyond recognition, and do not suit British taste. People have lost their jobs and it is estimated that over £4.5 billion has been sold in UK but no significant tax has been paid.

All this shows a disregard for the UK as a nation state. Those in charge are solely interested in feathering their own nests. As a nation we are now clearly in the last vestiges of Empire. Our ability to manipulate and control over one third of the world has disappeared. Leaving Europe we will, in effect, lose even more control. Our voice will just shout in the wilderness.

You can see that effect already. The BBC covers US news stories with relish. Europe is barely mentioned, and the rest of the world must have a major disaster to merit a mention. Yet we remain at war. How many of us know what our real expenditure on defence is? How does killing innocents in Syria help defend our shores? What’s the social and economic benefit to the UK citizenry?

I’ll think of something nice to say next time. Until then; remember to vote at the elections. I’d urge you to vote against any party presently holding power. We have become complacent, resigned to believing there is nothing we can do. That’s not true, but there are many challenges ahead. The USA remains a major threat, automation will take many jobs, our tax system is not covering all the population, corruption is getting worse, crime is rising, and I’m on a diet! The latter is why I’m feeling miserable this morning..