Saturday, July 27, 2019

Style Over Substance

The election of Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore as Prime Minister (pro tem) has produced some disquieting changes in its wake. Johnson, beholden to the strange people who believe that the British Empire is not dead but just resting, has appointed Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the Commons. And Mogg, reverting to type, has made his first instruction to his staff a set of rules about grammar and English usage in written communications.

 One might think that there were more pressing matters than insisting that all non-titled men should have Esq. affixed to their names and banning words like "unacceptable","very"," disappointment", "equal", "lot" and "ongoing" (though I'm with him on that last one). But Mogg has more serious issues with which to grapple. He has also insisted on the use of Imperial measurements. It is not clear which Empire he has in mind - possibly the one so brilliantly led by President G. Khan whose inspiring use of impalement as a way of settling political disputes has clarified many a knotty debate during the long hot summers in Karakorum.

But be that as it may, let us eavesdrop on a meeting with one of his senior advisors.

"Sir, great news, Adam Peaty has won a gold medal in the fifty metre breaststroke at the World championships"
"We'll have that again correctly, shall we, Rutherford?"
 "Sorry sir. Adam Peaty Esq, a non-titled gentleman and citizen of the Empire has achieved meritorious success at the fifty-four point six eight yard breaststroke"
"How much is that in rods and perches?"
 "I make it about nine point nine four rods, sir"
 "That seems highly creditable."
 "And we've researched the auction you were interested in, sir. There's a very nice snuff box in lot 38"
 "No, Rutherford"
 "I mean in, er, in that segment of the auction that is identified as, er ...."
 "Your conduct is unacceptable, Rutherford. I'm disappointed in you. Very disappointed."
 There is a long uncomfortable silence.
"Perhaps I'm not equal to this line of work after all, Rutherford. Carry on, would you. I think I left my old service revolver with my second footman ...."

[All Imperial measurements have been checked with those helpful folk at Google. Er, Google Esq. No, dammit, those helpful folk, Esq at Messrs. Google. Damn, that's French, Moggy won't like that. Look, just forget the whole thing, would you. Ed]

Friday, July 26, 2019

A Slice of Oral History

A little plug for an interview about my experiences when working for a computer games publisher in the 1980s called Mastertronic. It was recorded by The Retro Hour, the interviewer was the affable Dan Wood and you can hear it right here.

Slowly Cooling

It was, indeed (as predicted previously), pretty damn warm yesterday. Very near the record here in beautiful Ruislip, and across much of Europe. Fortunately some thunderstorms during the small hours have helped lower temperatures this morning though it remains humid. Amazingly England and Ireland (yes, really) played a Test match at Lords, the Tour de France struggled on into the Alps and even my local non-league football team was out training. I don't know how they do it.

Extraordinary sporting day. In the Test, Ireland  had scuttled out England in their first innings for 85 then scored 207. A historic win looming? Nope. Yesterday England scored 303. A confident Irish commentator opined that Ireland would certainly get the 180 odd runs needed to win. This plan worked brilliantly until they began their innings at which they scored 38 in just 15 overs. That's 38 all out, not for the first wicket or because the match had to be abandoned. 38 all out.

Meanwhile, in the Alps, Egan Bernal made a brilliant attack on Col de Liseran to go into the virtual leadership over the wonderfully combative Julian Alaphillipe and then the race was stopped before the final climb because the mountain road was under several inches of snow. Yes, snow, I saw the live pictures including a bulldozer making valiant but futile efforts to sweep it away. (And there was a landslide across the road as well). As a result Bernal wins the stage and the yellow jersey without Alaphillipe having had the chance to recover time on the long descent.  So this unusual weather continues to wreak its effects.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Boris in PM Brexit Meltdown Heatwave Shock Bid

Five years ago this column exclusively1 broke the story that Boris "Don't bother me with the facts" Johnson was poised to return to Parliament in order to attain his ambition of having his picture hung in the stairwell at 10 Downing Street2.  Today that dream has become a reality. Johnson, having been elected as leader of the Conservative Party by a small number of members, now finds himself without a majority, with "colleagues" who mistrust him and an impossible negotiating position with the EU. Why on earth does he want this job?

Johnson's stance on Brexit seems to be akin to the crusty, argumentative old codger in the golf club who gets so irritated he storms out and tears up his membership card, and then pokes his head round the door and says "I've paid my last penny in fees and I hate you all but I insist on jolly well playing here whenever I like just like all the real members".  What can he possibly say on his first meeting in Brussels that will be different to the scorn and lies he has already put out during his career?

I suppose it is incumbent on me to link this story with the return of the very hot weather to the UK. Really very hot, actually. Temperatures in London today are expected to reach about 33c, much the same tomorrow then a rather nasty 36c on Thursday before dropping back to something we are more used to. Can Boris take the heat? Will British politics go into melt-down? Are expectations at fever-pitch and will our man remain icy cool as all around are wilting? These are some of the meteorological/political considerations that headline writers will be pulling out from their rusty old filing cabinets (from the drawer marked "C" for clichés), polishing up and using whilst casually whistling and looking around as if to say "Look how clever I've been and I've not pinched this from anyone, honest". And who are we to stand out from the crowd on this one?

 1. Well, maybe a small exaggeration here. Nothing serious. Nothing that will get me slung out of the League of Responsible Bloggers, should that organisation ever get formed and should I happen to become a member.
2.The stairs are lined with portraits of British Prime Ministers which grin down at you as you make your way to the main reception room for a quick glass of warmish white wine and a couple of unidentifiable canapés. I've been there, all right?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Legend of Arkwright

I have a lot of fun with the scammers who phone up pretending to be from BT or Microsoft or from a (non-existent) Government insurance scheme. Some try to make me pay them for doing absolutely nothing, some wish to install malware on my computer (whilst claiming to be "fixing" it) and others may be fishing for information they can sell. My preferred tactic for the "Your internet has been compromised" line was covered in this piece and "You can get compensation" featured here.

This morning I took another approach when, once more, a gentleman with a pronounced Indian accent phoned to inform me that he was employed by Microsoft Technical Department.
"Oh yes" I replied brightly "Which one?"
"The leading one" he blustered "There is only one".  This was what I wanted to hear.
"Then you must know Steve Arkwright" I rejoined "He knows everyone in that department"
He attempted to say something but I ploughed gaily on "Yes, good old Steve, I haven't seen him for a couple of weeks, how is he?"
"No no, we all have ids here I do not know him" my caller replied, probably riffling frantically through his script to try to regain control of the conversation. I spoke over him.
"You must do, everyone knows Steve. Big man with a beard. He's organising the coach trip to Southend"

The line was suddenly cut off. I might have developed my theme with reference to Steve's wooden leg, that disastrous lads night out in Hackney, whether they've found his missing Sunderland FC mug yet and his plans to take on Apple Tech in underwater tiddly-winks in Malibu but all this must wait until another time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Keep Your Wig On, Pablo

One shouldn't laugh at serious crime but I think we can make an exception for the Colombian gentleman who took somewhat too literally his boss's instructions to "keep it under your hat". Attempting to smuggle about a pound of cocaine into Barcelona, he stuck it in a bag on his head then, realising this would be fairly easy to spot even for the sleepiest of customs men just about to go for a siesta, he hit on the cunning plan of buying an unfeasibly large wig to hide it. This plan worked brilliantly up to the point that he boarded the plane and drew attention to himself by acting nervously. On arrival they must have drawn him politely aside and asked if he had anything to declare, other than the ludicrous rug that we see here, courtesy of the Evening Standard

"Nada, nothing officer" he must have stammered.
"I see sir. Are you sure? You're not a supporter of that eighteenth century English political party, what were they called, it's on the tip of my tongue, ah yes, the Whigs, by any chance?"
"No no, I swear on my life of my donkey"
"Was the flight alright sir? No, er, hairy moments?"
"It was fine, thanks be to God. May I go now?"
"Yes, I expect you'll be wanting to get ahead of things sir. Oh, just one thing ... it's a bit warm in here, I'll turn the fan on. Oh dear, sir, I appear to have dislodged your gentleman's grooming accessory....."

And this was the result.

The man, his drugs and his wig are now helping police with their enquiries.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Keeping in Touch

A nice little brochure arrives in the post. It announces a new retirement home opening in Harrow and hopes I may be interested. Yes, I am of that age group that is automatically assumed to be interested in such matters. Idly I scan through it and my eye is caught by the following part of the sales blurb:

... and the telephone point in both the main bedroom and living room means you're always connected

Have the vendors not heard of this remarkable new invention called, if my memory fails me not, wireless? Do they not realise that only one telephone point per household is required if that said household has a modern telephone set with wireless handsets? But wait, surely I have missed something, bear with me, oh yes, I know, there's this brand new invention all the young people are talking about called mobile phones. With one of these in your pocket you are connected no matter where you might be in your home, or (and this is the clever bit) out of it.

I think I can dimly see the logic of the designers of these flats. "Old people are so ignorant of technology" they tell each other between gaps in their Powerpoint presentations "They barely realise that starter handles are no longer needed to get a motor vehicle going. Show them a gramophone and they marvel at how the orchestra has been shrunk to fit into that funnel thing you stick your ear in. They all have just the one phone plugged into the hallway and when it rings everyone in the family rushes down to answer it, just like in those wonderful old TV sitcoms they watch all day while waiting for the wrestling to come on. They'll fall over their Zimmer frames in amazement when we tell them they get two telephone points in our flats."

I am sorely tempted to phone up for an appointment and ask them about provision for stabling the horses, the maid's quarters, if the flats have a back entrance marked "Tradesmen" and where I will be keeping my coal, all the while going "Speak up young man, all you young people mumble so much". They've obviously got a mental picture of me and I do hate to disappoint.