I witnessed the birth of a new word last night. In a lively discussion with friends ‘exturpuration’ came into play, which if I understood it correctly means something like a vomit of verbiage. Who I wonder might this word apply to?
Talking of words, the Guardian has yet again failed to print one of my letters, gently upbraiding them – here in February – for not calling winter winter. An article about strawberries being grown now in Wales could only refer to this week’s ‘cold snap.’ I suspect an increasing number of people are surprised these days when there’s a frost. Talk of global warming has led to some unjustified expectations. Teenagers now expect to go clubbing in January in clothes designed for summer. I am appointing myself Director-General of the Society for the Preservation of the Seasons. I am pleased, in that capacity that today’s Guardian did use the ‘w’ word in a story about next week’s forecast suggesting that it would be colder in the UK than at the North Pole. That is a seriously worrying story, but for now I’ll stop exturpurating on the subject except to say that winter officially ends next Thursday. After then it will be OK to use the term ‘cold snap.’
The selection of the Labour parliamentary candidate for Scarborough and Whitby constituency is under way. Amazingly this seat is now in the upper range of the party’s target seats, given the much reduced majority the Conservative incumbent got last time round. Since I am completely out of touch with local party thinking I’ve no idea what kind of candidate the membership will go for. For my money I will be hoping for a candidate who displays an independence of mind, a grasp of climate change politics, a remainer (preferably a remoaner seeking a second referendum), somebody who knows the location and name of each and every back street and alley in Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay and Scarborough, a vegetarian, a lifelong member of the League Against Cruel Sports, possessing a familiarity with the works of Wittgenstein and who entertains a sympathetic ear for minimalist composers as well as a sensibility to the weaknesses of post-modernist ontology. I wouldn’t have much in common with this person, but such a woman would get my vote.
Matthew d'Ancona, who writes from a right-wing perspective in the Guardian had a column yesterday which took up the fake news that Corbyn was an asset of communist Czech intelligence, a story which continues to run in the hard-right media today. Apparently meeting with anyone who may or may not have been a bona fide diplomat can now be construed as one's becoming an 'asset.' It is very hard to imagine how many MPs have not met with foreign diplomats over the years and decades. And some of those meetings will have been with diplomats from 'friendly' nations who nevertheless may have had interests inimical to British interests, particularly, for example, in the field of commerce when defence sales are at stake. Who knows what went on? But perhaps the explanation for the Czech interest in Corbyn was their prescience in the mid-1980s anticipating JC's rise to the leadership of the Labour Party whilst failing to spot the imminent collapse of their own country. As one 'sting' expose after another has shown, the real threat to parliament today lies more in the money-chasing instincts of influence peddlars than anything else, and they exist on all sides of the House. I banged off a letter to the Guardian but they didn't publish it:
'Matthew d'Ancona's comment column is premised, with very little equivocation on taking the word of a former Czech spy at face value. The ex-spy's claims, at least in the Mail Online version of the story, are not backed up by any other source. Nor is there any clue anywhere as to how much the man has been paid by the Daily Mail for his 'story.' There have been plenty of cases in the past of former Soviet spies sexing up or inventing incriminating stories to bolster their credentials to credulous western interests. Michael Foot called the Mail the Forger's Gazette. Take note, Matthew d'Ancona.'
‘Get your state pension’ the letter from the Pension Service says. Yes I’m coming up to that age so I think I will. All I need do apparently is go to www.getstatepension.dwp.gov.uk, type in the ‘invitation code’ on my letter and away we go! Not quite. The greeting on that page says ‘Something’s gone wrong. You can’t use this service just now. The problem will be fixed as soon as possible. Please try again later.'
I try an alternative route on Google. www.gov.uk/claim-state-pension-online.Here it says ‘The online service is closed to new claims. You can make a new claim online from 1 March 2018.’ So that’s it. The letter from the Pension Service didn’t say anything about not making new claims until 1st March. Except this page I’m now on goes on to say
‘You can continue your claim if you’ve already got your:
o Government Gateway ID
o State Pension activation code
You’ll need to finish it by 28 February 2018.’
But not if you are relying on your letter from the Pension Service, which only contains your ‘Invitation code’ not your ‘activation code,’ which as a later page says is not contained in your letter. Oh how doing things online – where the government wants you to go – is making everything simpler. I think I’ll watch I, Daniel Blake again to remind myself how bad it is for those less fortunate than I.
I am addicted to BBC Four’s Saturday night 'Scandi noir’ slot, so even when something as preposterous as the current series of MODUS comes on – with its storyline of a US president going missing on a trip to Sweden – I feel my addiction is barely shaken. The dafter it is, the more one wonders how the hell the final episode will shape up. But this week’s cliff hanger, with POTUS Helen Tyler caged in some hell hole in a disused power station which is about to be blown up puts me in mind of our own PM. She too can cry at the top of her voice “I’m here!” but nobody hears her. What we all wonder will be her final episode?
One of the joys(?) of my daily visit to the newsagent to pick up my Commie-loving Guardian is the opportunity to take part in Bilewatch, the consciousness-raising therapy which helps you to stay alert and be ahead of the game. This involves a quick scan whilst wearing radiation-proof goggles of the headlines in the right-wing press. Yesterday's Sun had a scorcher "CORBYN AND THE COMMIE SPY" I always knew it. Wasn't Corbyn the Ninth Man after all? Or was it the Eighth? Whatever. I bet Jez would have met that Czech PM if he'd had the chance. What was his name? Oh yes. Dubcek. Alexander Dubcek to be precise. But he couldn't because he was already preparing for the Winter of Discontent ten years later. Yes, let's find a photo of Jez stopping a grief-struck family from burying their dead. Hang on! Isn't that him in this picture with General Galtieri? It's a bit blurred but . . . any old rubbish will do!
Yes, I think I've identified a few themes for Bilewatch in the run up to the next general election . . .
How curious in this age of Brexit that the succession to be the next head of the Commonwealth has been relegated to a second order news issue. Maybe this is because nobody knows what the Commonwealth is anymore (and of course we don’t talk in terms of the British Commonwealth these days, and nor of course does anybody want to talk about the death of Her Maj.). Here is an international entity in which we Brits have a major stake – but perhaps have a somewhat ambiguous relationship with these days. If we were China we wouldn’t be so coy. They are developing their own economic commonwealth as fast as railways, port facilities, highways, runways and development programmes can muster. I suspect that in Whitehall, there is a residual feeling – unstated – that where we have ‘High Commissioners’ as opposed to common or garden Ambassadors, we still somehow commission things. Imperial hubris still lurks in the shadows. This perception will probably be perpetuated if Prince Charles stumbles into being the next head of the Commonwealth. I for one hope that he doesn’t take that step. I am expecting at any moment that Liam Fox will throw his hat into the ring, and will immediately pull off a vast free trade agreement with, with, with well errrrr . . . .somebody maybe. I have to correct something I heard on the news though, which is that the Commonwealth has no teeth. If I recall, Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth for anti-democratic behaviour.
This piece of graffiti has appeared on Scarborough’s sea front in the last couple of days. It is somewhat ambiguous, although I doubt the person behind it thought it so. ‘Veganism is not a diet’ could mean that it is not something that’s going to get you slimmer. Try Weightwatchers instead. Or it could be dismissive of ‘Veganuary,’ i.e veganism is not some here today, gone tomorrow new year’s resolution peddled by media lifestyle gurus. What I think the intention behind it is, is that being a Vegan extends well beyond disavowing animal sourced food, but includes everything produced from animals. Having tried and failed to be a vegan I know that is no mean feat. When I tried it, even taking photos was prohibited, since the film stock was coated with gelatin. And then there were the pretend leather shoes made from plastic. So perhaps beneath this graffiti statement lies a cry of despair, that something so serious is not being treated too seriously in the media. But if ‘Veganuary’ raises awareness, why complain? Who knows. Or perhaps it was sprayed by a carnivore.
I am supporting Plan B earth – planb.earth – which “is supporting the emergence of a networked, international movement of legal action to prevent catastrophic climate change.” Despite recent good news, such as the lower cost of UK offshore wind energy, or the admission by industry that fracking in the UK is not what it was cracked up to be – there is still a slovenly attitude on the part of government to meet, and indeed enhance its carbon reduction targets. Some recent announcements suggest, for example on the introduction of electric cars that it can all happen NIMTOO – Not In My Term Of Office. Twas ever thus. Planb.earth is raising money to take the UK government to court. Well worth supporting.
For many years I used to be a member of the Labour European Safeguards Committee, which at the time I naïvely imagined represented a left-critical perspective on the EU that sought reform of the EU from that perspective. I left when I discovered it was being funded non-transparently and was actually just a vehicle for pulling out. A leading light was Austin Mitchell, then MP for Grimsby. Now, in a Guardian article he is criticising Labour for not focusing on the real agenda, which is standing up for the ‘left behind,’ Labour he claims has ‘no clear proposals to repair a failing economy.’
I wonder if Austin has noticed that the party is now led by Jeremy Corbyn? The ex-MP, who clearly delighted in his role as a maverick has now been out-mavericked. He must feel a little out of sorts, and perhaps hasn’t heard that Labour would end the failed policy of austerity, which is even making Tory-run councils go bust, or that Labour would renationalise natural monopolies (water, energy, rail, etc) that have squeezed the ‘left behind’ with inflation busting price rises.
As an early proponent of Brexit, Mitchell now accuses the party of being distracted by it. He should pay more attention.