Bank Holidays

Fiona Bruce: photo Karen StoneUsually they are cold and windy – it’s a corporate plot to make you feel like going to work on Tuesday. Thia year it’s likely to be cold and wet on Tuesday -l that may make more people stay in bed?

Nothing much has happened. There’s a new crew presenting Top Gear, not that I watched it – challenging Fiona Bruce and antiques? Who do you think I am? There’s hardly any programmes about antiques on the BBC, certainly no more than two a day. I wonder we have any antiques left in the country, and how long we are meant to suffer the stupidity of shows such as Antiques Roadshow where an ‘expert’ teams up with a ‘celebrity’ as they tour the country to find antiques in a selection of junk shops. When I worked in the antique trade it was the other way round. We went to auctions to buy stuff that we then sold to shops.

You can see the weakness in the programme as the poor shopkeeper is forced to give a discount to this motley TV crew (are they the ones paid over £150,000? I hope not), usually knocking off half the price. Whenever I’ve tried to do the same the shopkeeper has usually turned grumpy. Continuing this facade the get their loot to an auction, which has very few potential customers so that often means that they sell at a loss. It’s at that point I realise they are spending the BBC Licence fee on this daily diet of rubbish, and start to fume.

The BBC remain scared of this government. The Culture Secretary, Whittingdale, clearly has an Australian friend who’s keen to knock the BBC off its perch. I can’t understand this insane belief that somehow a company intent on making a profit for its shareholders, above all else, can do a better job than other systems – for example; the present BBC being a better idea than allowing an ancient Aussie dominate our media even more, even though he’s now receiving regular injections of a youth hormone from another wife (is that the right way round?)

There’s a terrible suspicion that, for some reason, this government are intent on destroying the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. All they talk about is finding foreign investors, and now we find that much of London is owned by these foreigners, most of whom have the places as an investment, and just leave them empty. Yet we have a housing crisis. Where are all the new immigrants going to live?

Biggest shock for me this week is that we are buying new tanks. That’s a shock for several reasons. Are we about to invade somewhere? That’s what tanks do. They help us to dominate local areas, usually by blowing the opposition apart, then breaking down. Sometimes (invariably) that’s the other way round.

Is that why we are not making these tanks ourselves? Can’t trust the Welsh to produce steel . No expertise left in Birmingham or Sheffield? Who knows. Probably has something to do with price and Gideon (our Chancellor of the Exchequer) believing it is cheaper to get the steel needed for these tanks from Sweden, and then employ the Spanish to build the tanks. It’s madness. Penny-pinching stupidity. Hope they ealise it’s all decimal over there. I once supplied loads of ductwork to a government establishment whose planners had not moved from Imperial to Metric – every duct was a little short. We made a fortune from the variations to that contract.

It’s not long since I helped UK businesses to sell stuff to Spain. They were always excited when we turned up with a new machine – and they would buy. Usually they bought one. At the next exhibition they would arrive with a new piece of kit. Looking closely we could see it was based upon our own product, the one that had appeared at an earlier show. Their version was cheaper, of course, but usually poorly made.

It’s why I remain single. To be good at something you have to keep trying, I think I’ve given up. Great Britain kept trying, and we were Great. Drive down to the Chinese-owned port at Felixstowe and you’ll see a notice emblazoned over a bridge saying ‘Port of Britain’. The Chinese recognise our worth.


George Forsdike at 90It was a good weekend. The weather forecast was wrong – it invariably is for Felixstowe, a coastal town in Suffolk, England, that misses much of the weather – it gets blown away by the North Sea wind!

Spent Saturday morning having breakfast with Jenny. Lovely lady. We planned to sit outside the Winkles Cafe at the Ferry but it was a little too cold for that, so instead we went (I took her) to Dave’s at 7 Beach Station Road. This is a hidden gem, and I’m not too keen to talk about it. Essentially it’s a greasy spoon, except that Dave knows how to cook. The food is well-prepared, the ingredients fresh and of good quality.

We had breakfast, with eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans (when did they become a necessary breakfast staple?), fried potatoes, with two slices of buttered toast and a mug of tea. Jenny couldn’t move after that, so we sat for a while finishing our mugs of tea. Good value at just over £10 for two.

Reluctantly I took Jenny home, as she needed to get ready for her voluntary job at the Elizabeth Hospice shop. That, and EACH, East Anglia Childrens’ Hospice, together with BASIC, a local charity, are the only ones I’m willing to support. Although, in each case, I’d rather our money was spent supporting these local charities than the 0.7% of GDP that the United Nations suggest rich countries should donate. Not sure we have made that figure, just over 5% seems the average for the UK. The Nordic countries and Holland usually beat us.

In the afternoon took George to his ninetieth birthday party. That was a quietly pleasant affair. George seemed content, and it was a chance to meet his family and scoff a slice of birthday cake.

The evening saw me watching Eurovision. Two comments about that: the BBC iPlayer was out of sync (on my machine). I nipped round to a friend who was watching on TV, and as she is deaf she relies upon sub-titles; they were flashing on the screen, and then disappearing. Neither of us were happy. It was significant that Ukraine won, beating the favourite, Russia, into third place (that well-known European country, Australia, came second). I was left with the impression that the conflicts among people are caused by politicians. Why don’t we live by song contests, or referendums, electing worker bees each year to do the menial jobs. Who needs politicians?

Lazy Sunday I spent the morning watching the Hollow Crown on iPlayer. Brilliant, you get sub-titles on repeats, and for now can watch with impunity without a licence. Rather than give 0.7% of our GDP to other countries I think we should allow the world access to iPlayer. It would endear us to them – and we need that to happen. Too many decades of playing puppy-dog to the USA has left us hated practically everywhere – that was noticeable in Eurovision.

BBC drama productions are priceless. Henry VI part 2 is a bloody spectacle – we were warned that it would be violent, but it’s not gratuitous. I only looked away once! A great series, the Hollow Crown. This government seem intent on destroying the BBC. Concessions appear to have been made but programme making has been thrown to the dogs. I don’t understand how it can be construed that a company intent on making a profit, for itself, can do a better job than the BBC. Anyway I refuse to watch TV with adverts – grumpy old sod that I am.

Slipped into Bencotto’s for a leisurely tea after lunch spent with Maureen. There was a fortieth birthday party in full swing. At forty most guests brought along children, most under ten. They get boisterous whilst their parents, grateful for adult company talk incessantly among themselves. Eventually we were beaten by the noise levels but content that everyone was enjoying themselves and the children still had energy enough not to be crying – that would come later. After we had gone!

A simple weekend, made more glorious by an email in the evening that announced my cousin, age 73, was about to get married. Excellent news. Now, what do I buy them as a present? No, a Zimmer frame is not appropriate (yet).


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Making a Decision

EU flagsUnited Kingdom citizens are about to make a very important decision. Unfortunately they are not being given much unbiased advice yet the decision to leave or remain in the European Union will have profound effects, that will be felt around the world.

Two camps oppose each other:broadly the Remain or Leave, to stay or to leave. Within each camp there’s a motley collection of disparit interests. Politicians have attempted to assume command but they all lack credibility. David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister announced the idea of a Referendum some months ago. Great trumpeting abut ‘letting the people decide’, with confident statements by the Remain campaign, led by Cameron. It all looked set for a comfortable victory, engineered by the Conservatives who were still flushed with success from winning an election that was lost by their opposition, the Labour Party, and the desire to punish the third party, the Liberal Democrats, who had foolishly formed a coalition with the Conservatives and helped to subdue Conservative zeal during the previous tenure.

Nobody really knew what was going on, or who to trust. Opposition parties were in disarray, and the Conservatives jubilantly incompetent. We are now getting close to ‘that’ decision, and most people remain undecided. The pollsters are nervous. The electorate is split down the middle. Nobody really knows which way it will go, except Scotland seems set to Remain. Northern Ireland, Wales and England are still dithering.

Quite rightly because making this decision will not be easy. Traditionally we can assume we will Remain. The English peasantry is conformist, and conservative in its approach. Centuries of slavery have always ensured that they will behave as their masters wish. It appeared that the ruling elite wanted to Remain, then cracks began to appear. Some popular politicians (if that’s not an oxymoron it should be) joined the Leave camp, where Nigel Farage had been battling away with his UKIP party for many years urging us to leave.

Reality suggests it is not these politicians who make decisions. President Obama flies in and tells us to Remain. UK politicians have traditionally followed the demands made by the USA. So, if a President says ‘Stay’ like obedient poodles we should stay. That misunderstands the British character. We don’t like being told what to do, particularly when it’s clearly linked to a TTIP trade agreement that will allow international companies (that means US- based) to ride roughshod over our wishes.

We have a stalemate. The decision is still difficult to call. The country remains poised, as if it is waiting for a push that will tilt us one way or the other.

Since Margaret Thatcher the UK has not been fully committed to closer integration with Europe. The idea of a European Defence Force is met with horror, because the USA controls NATO, and so that country decides when we enter into conflicts, with a belief that the arms industry can solve problems.

We give money to maintain the EU. It’s argued that we get a good return on that investment. We know that some money does come back to the UK, but most plops into the hands of an agricultural industry that exploits a system that was intended to help small farmers in France. The UK agriculture is now more interested in exporting its home-grown products, such as lamb and corn, whilst allowing our home market to be exposed to the vagaries of an international market. With the majority of EU funds being spent by agriculturists the people lose out. Organisations such as the Eurpean Network for Rural Development have no significant UK input.

The EU has become an administrative behemoth that’s beyond control. It’s suggested that this is partly the UK’s fault. We have failed to get properly involved, allowing stupid decisions to be ratified without proper discussion, and have then set our own army of brainless bureaucrats loose so that managing the flood of legislation has become impossible. It goes even further with some EU members openly admitting that they cherry-pick laws ro suit themselves, while the UK tries to conform to everything as it is collectively blames the EU.

To Leave appears frightening. To be part of a European community does give some security but where is Europe going? Will it become a one-party state, possibly controlled by Germany? Will it be overrun by Muslims intent on introducing Sharia Law? Will Europe become too overcrowded with immigrants who have no understanding of the subtleties of our democracies but just see us as a honeypot to be plundered?

How frightening is the EU?

We trade with the rest of the world. Our trade with Europe is diminishing as an overall percentage, it’s becoming less important. Even in the absence of TTIP-style agreements we can still do business with Europe and elsewhere. The trick remains that we must produce goods and services that the world needs. That’s back to Margaret Thatcher’s belief that we don’t need to make anything, we can provide services instead. That’s a complex argument but perhaps we do need to become more parochial.

We are a thriving economy, one that allows too easy access for others to exploit. The country is divided by those that make cash from our many forms of international trade, and workers who gain little but are faced with growing taxes combining with a reduction of services. What does a PAYE employee get from the State? If we step aside from the international stage, and concentrate upon ourselves, will we be better off? Is there really a threat to the UK that couldn’t be reduced if we stopped invading and attacking other countries?

A real problem is our dependence upon the USA – will that country slowly take over the UK? Too many US-based companies now exploit the UK, with marketing campaigns persuading us all to buy or watch their products. Could we become another US State?

It’s all complicated but our electorate relies upon gut reactions. The media is not helping. Too many newspapers are foreign owned, even the BBC is under pressure not to upset the government as it’s Charter is up for renewal, and it is threatened with being dismantled. There’s little unbiased advice available and the English (I can’t speak for the Celts) are not used to making decisions. Tell us to pick up a gun and fight the enemy and we can do that. Ask us to identify the enemy is more difficult.

We have a decision to make.