A closer shave

“Testosterone lawsuit – You are owed money for your Testosterone related injury…”

(From my email spam folder, about twice a day)

I may have started a new fashion in beards. It happened, I suppose, as a result of my Testosterone related injury.

Testosterone is, as you know full well, the all-purpose male hormone that makes men muscular, angry all the time, follow the most inept and unsuccessful football teams until death, drive too fast, go bald at 35, fancy completely unattainable and artificially enhanced women, hide pornographic magazines in the garden and grow successively odder styles of beard, one after another, wondering hopelessly if we look more fanciable with or without, until we simply give up in despair and stop putting on clean underwear.

Some time ago, I was so broke that I realised I could no longer afford the £11.50 it was now costing every month to get my thinning hair cut and my beard trimmed (£2.50 extra). So I bought one of those sheep-clipper devices and started to do it myself. It has saved a small fortune over the past year, and now I have learned how to cope with the weird little tufts that used to spring out of the sides of my oddly-shaped cranium and refuse to lie down, I am not dissatisfied with the results. (Notice the adroit, if rather overdone, use of the double-negative throughout this, my 330th Post.)

Nor were the results unpleasing, giving me that all-over groomed look, almost dare I say sleek, which, had I any clothes, or a nicer car, might lead women of a certain age and income distribution to think me not unprepossessing, from a certain angle, in an uncertain light.

Anyway, this morning I was casually running a Number One over the general chin area, noting in passing that my beard these days seems to have become felted, being composed of a compacted and intractable solid mass of white fluff rather than the black bragadoccio bristles of yore, when the plastic comb attachment that maintains the height of the cut suddenly popped off and skittered loudly across the tiled floor of the bathroom.

Before I realised what had happened, of an instant the now-unprotected cutting blade had mown a swathe like a crop circle across the jutting point of my manly chin, leaving a bare patch with a sort of pillow of felted white fluff plumped out on either side.

I think the handy Elizabethan word ‘poltroon’ best describes my appearance.

Which is unfortunate, as I have a meeting to attend an hour from now. And owing to my lack of Testosterone, a deficit clearly evident from the rest of my jawline, that is scantily covered in a wispy cirrhus of isolated soft white hairs; my feminine, unmuscled arms, my hairless old legs, my sagging man-boobs, soft underbelly and developing attachment to white wine, it may be some time before the damage can be undone.

My legal team is consequently suing the manufacturers of the faulty device for more than all the money that exists in the world, for the egregious damage done to my person and reputation throughout the known Universe.

I am also thinking of taking the NHS to the cleaners. This is because I have been waiting in vain for the clinic to contact me about the tests I had done a month ago, in pursuit of a professional medical opinion relating to symptoms I assumed would be indicative of my sinking Testosterone level, lack of affect, unruly bladder, habit of wandering around in the road outside shouting at drivers ignoring the 30 mph limit, etc., etc.

Had I known that I was becoming an old lady, would I have kept the beard?

I think not.

Nor would I have suffered the Testosterone related injury for which I am now, I am being told by the webthing twice a day, owed substantial sums in compensation.

I rest my case.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Declaring Independents

“It feels to me like the shadows of the last pan-European war are creeping across the lawn. “

For months now, I have been chipping away in vain at the adamantine block of voter unreason, with regard to the disturbing rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party, that has latterly done well in elections to one third of our town halls, gaining 160 seats with all of 17% of the 30% of the votes people could be arsed to cast.

(That Labour gained 300 seats is of no interest to the media, excited by the thought of something new in British politics and inclined to ignore the Cassandras pointing out that UKIP’s gains are a potential disaster for the country.)

Dissent has a long and honourable tradition in British life. Once upon a time, Independents held many seats in local government and even controlled councils. Nobody paid much attention to them. Having rallied around the UKIP flag, however, they are now being presented in the media as a new fourth force in British politics, pushing the hapless Liberal-Democrats into last place with only 11% of the national vote. The Independents are no longer independent. And possibly no longer so honourable.

In fact, given the turnout, the fourth (maybe the first) force in British politics now is not UKIP, but voter apathy – the ‘democratic deficit’.

I have tried pointing out on political comment threads, in the face of some truly disturbing interjections from the piss-stained sofa brigade, that UKIP is not really a political party at all, and that waiting in the wings of UKIP are some very nasty forces we don’t really want to let loose again in the world.

But no-one is listening. I have also pointed out (see Posts passim) that UKIP is succeeding, precisely because of that large swathe of the electorate that has developed a visceral loathing of the rationalist, educated minority that is most vocal in its criticism of UKIP, and now feels it is entitled to indulge its contempt for the civilised values of the centre. A mob mentality is taking hold.

UKIP is the Pandora’s Box of politics, a grab-bag for all the discontent and disappointment and disempowerment in the nation. Most of it is merely letting-off steam. But some of it prefigures unimaginable horrors. Do people really want to see all that is most negative and envious and isolationist and, potentially, brutal in Britain mirrored back to us for the next five years? Or is some blood-letting a periodic necessity?

Leading UKIP is a cynical, world-weary, opportunistic, middle-aged ex-banker, ex-public-school ‘cheeky chappie’ dressed in a horrid, shiny suit over which he sometimes affects one of those velvet-collared camelhair coats beloved of spivs in 1950s Ealing comedies. I assure you, it is quite deliberate.

Nigel Farage poses outside pubs with a pint and a fag and puts on an Essex twang, and, like a used-car salesman, says just about anything people want to hear that resonates with their most profound ignorance, suspicions and prejudices.

His shtick is to sound, not as though he is telling people things, but that he is merely agreeing with them.

He agrees with them that hordes of immigrants are coming over here, swamping ‘our’ British way of life, stealing ‘our’ jobs and houses, that Europe (that faraway place of which we know little) has somehow stolen ‘our’ right to govern ‘our’ national affairs, that ‘our’ politics is profoundly corrupt, that no one is listening to the white working class, who have been dispossessed by so many people of colour, that the rich have never had it so good (because many of them are foreigners) while the poor are made to suffer by the rich people’s party in government, that all Romanians are illiterate benefit thieves, and worse.

Ordinary voters apparently love this ‘ordinary bloke’ because he ‘tells it like it is’ and speaks to ‘the common man’.

It is terrifying.

Are British voters really so pathetically gullible and stunned by Diazepam that they cannot see it is all an act? That behind this cheap and easy caricature is just as much of a glib, dissembling professional as any of the other politicians they affect to loathe?

Probably not. But Farage knows it is what people WANT to believe, not what is actually true, that wins hearts and minds. And by cleverly encouraging the gaffe-prone tendency in his party, he has succeeded in obtaining acres of free press, turning UKIP into a news story to circumvent the normal representational rules surrounding political media coverage and the expense of political advertising.

Among the loonies, I have heard one or two party members interviewed, some defectors from the Conservative party, who sounded at least normal, rational even. There were probably many perfectly sound people who joined the National Socialists in Germany in the early 1930s, believing the country had gone to the dogs and that foreigners were the problem. It is probably the most persuasive meme in history, after religion.

For the past five years I had been thinking, dreaming, planning, of getting out of this increasingly racist country, with its overbearing sense of entitlement, its ‘No dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ boarding-house mentality and its twitching net curtains.

(I use the word racist lazily, as code for the politics of envy and exclusionism, the Dark Side of nationalism. There is, as geneticists will tell you, no such thing as actual race. We are as closely related to chimpanzees as we are to one another.)

I grew up all through the dreary 1950s and not-so-swinging 60s, I don’t want to go back.

Part of my plan, since I do at least speak French, has been to move to France, where I thought I would be entitled to live and work and toddle about peacefully by virtue of the Schengen agreement. Only last week, I was negotiating with an English couple over looking after their home in France, while I sell mine here and leapfrog into genteel retirement within ambling distance of a cosy bar/tabac in some agreeable provincial small market town smelling of Gauloises and dusty lemons.

France, where the spectre of General De Gaulle has come back to haunt us in the blowsy shape of the ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen, daughter of the far-right French politician Jean-Marie, whose anti-Europe, anti-immigrant, anti-German Front Nationale party has just won a majority of French seats in the European Parliament; something even UKIP with its 24 seats has not yet achieved.

La Belle France, where suddenly I don’t want to be either.

It feels to me like the shadows of the last pan-European war are creeping across the lawn. As yet, it is only a vague presentiment: the conventional, centrist parties still hold 70% of the seats in the European Parliament.

But instead of a centrist left- or right-wing opposition, they are now opposed by a potential coalition of the anti-Europe far-left and far-right, both of which have recently demonstrated an appetite for violence in countries where political economy has faltered. Everywhere bar in Germany, ironically, the centre is being hollowed-out, leaving a dangerous vacuum.

On Saturday, three people were shot dead by a lone, white gunman while visiting the Jewish museum in Brussels.

Is there no escape from the past?

 

TV detective shows: the ultimate question

I love a police procedural show, don’t you? A good ‘whodunnit’? (Although you generally know from the start. And if the police really proceeded like this we’d all be in trouble.)

One question.

Why, whenever the shambolic, rough-edged, ex-alcoholic cop with life issues goes into the scary dark abandoned industrial building/creepy suburban house belonging to the hitherto unsuspected psychopathic serial killer, who has kidnapped the missing child/detective’s daughter/previous suspect/sidekick and is (pointlessly slowly) murdering them down in the cellar/waiting in the shadows to strike a fatal blow, do they

never

just

TURNTHEFUCKINGLIGHTSON?

Where are you when we need you?

Having noticed an alarming fall-off in output recently, my concerned army of fans have been busy organising an online petition on the giveusmoreandbetterliteraturenow.org webthing, to demand more Posts from Boglington-on-Sea.

It’s very sweet of you, all 103,262 of you, I’d write to thank you all in person but I haven’t worked out how to do that yet. In fact, there is a reason for the paucity of Posts in the past two weeks, and it is simply this:

I’ve been working. For money, you understand. Yay.

Twice a year, I volunteer as an invigilator of exams at my local uni. They pay well by local standards, £9 an hour. This year for the first time we have been forced to apply for actual contracts, and so are legally entitled to receive holiday pay at the rate of 1/27th of the annual entitlement we would have if we were fulltime staff.

That’s thanks to the EU directive that says people who work hard deserve a break now and then, without financial penalty. It’s not something our local uni would have thought of by themselves. Since our breaks last about six months at a time, it’s only fair that our holiday pay should amount to 76p an hour. I’m just now planning where to go. There are quite a few military coups in progress this month, reducing the local hotel prices. Mosul is full-up, but tour bargains are to be had. Picturesque Donetsk is full of journalists, so maybe I’ll go backpacking in Thailand after all?

Gratifying as that is, it is also a great relief to know that none of us is an ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT. We have had to produce endless documentation to prove we are who most of us have been for at least the past six years during which we have been invigilating exams. It would be horrifying to think the students might have come in contact with invigilators, some of whom had no right to live and work in the UK. One or two of us have dropped off the list this time, giving cause for suspicion. I will not name them here, but an anonymous file is on its way to the Border Police.

Which reminds me, it is European Parliament Election day today and I haven’t voted yet. I need to get out and vote before the polls close. UKIP needs all the support it can get, to stem the tide of filthy garlic-chewing degenerates swamping our boardrooms, royal palaces and football clubs.

Sadly, it won’t be getting it from me.

Only one more week of prowling up and down an exam room to go. I have trained myself to sleep like a migrating stork, with half my brain switched-off at a time. And then only another month or two until payday.

Pip pip!

– Herr Doktor Professor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl (for it is he).

 

Banking on a housing bubble

House prices in Britain have bounced back from the recession so fast and furiously that there is anxiety among the well-housed MPs and bankers that ordinary people, even those earning quite healthy salaries, cannot afford to ‘get a foot on the housing ladder’. (It’s the sort of thing they fret about in an election year.)

So what does the Bank of England do, to prick the growing housing bubble?

Make it harder for ordinary people to get mortgages.

First, by – well, making it harder for lenders to agree to lend, by toughening-up the individual lending criteria, ostensibly to prevent borrowers becoming overstretched – as if they haven’t always been. No-one ever buys a house they can afford to buy. And secondly, by threatening to raise interest rates sooner than they would otherwise have done.

Apart from making the economic outlook even rosier for buy-to-let landlords, this regressive policy, bearing as it does on the majority of less-well-off housebuyers, makes no sense on many levels. For one, it will reduce the supply of affordable housing, as the housing now becomes less affordable to finance. Is that what Governor Carney intended?

Houses are not tins of baked beans, or iPhones. Every house, even on an estate of pretty similar properties, is different. Different style, different number of rooms, different location, different outlook, different running costs. And every homebuyer is different. Different income, different family circumstances, different job, different hobbies, different aspirations, different set of emotional baggage surrounding their housing preferences.

Then, house prices are negotiable quantities. No two houses are the same price, and no-one expects to pay the asking price, especially out here in the sticks. Only in London will you find yourself in a bidding war at some ridiculous figure.

So a one-size-fits-all macro-economic solution can’t work. Housing is not susceptible to analysis on a simple supply-demand graph, with the two curves intersecting at the locus of satisfaction – the price – where a simple change to either the supply or the demand side will bring all prices down.

You can look at it like that, but in a market where every transaction is individual, you will find it almost impossible to affect or even to predict either the supply or the demand – or indeed the price – on a global scale. Both will vary naturally from region to region of the country, depending on externals like the availability of jobs and amenities, the desirability or otherwise of certain locations, the local economy, the appeal to buyers’ emotions.

You can quickly build more estates on the edges of country towns and villages, but you can’t raise the production quota for quaint old country cottages and manor houses, that are also in demand – and you can’t easily improve the transportation infrastructure, the availability of work, schools, shops and pubs.

In a city, it’s harder to find space to build. You can build upwards, but you still need the groundspace, while the desire for single dwellings with gardens is as strong as ever. Not everyone likes to live in the sky.

On the demand side, two years ago lenders weren’t lending easily to homebuyers because they’d been forced in the wake of the banking crash to increase their capital reserves. And they’d already been burned in 2007/8 by lending on too high a loan-to-value ratio, they weren’t going to make that mistake again. The ‘sub-prime’ market, we were told, had been responsible for almost bringing down the entire banking system of America. (Actually, economic recession was the precursor of the sub-prime defaults, but that is another Post.)

Now lenders were raising absurd objections. In my own case, the sale of my house fell through because the building society valuer claimed it needed a new roof. Two further surveys proved that it absolutely didn’t, but by then the damage was done, the buyer had taken fright.

Yet not all borrowers on high ratios defaulted on their loans. People proved they can adapt.

The Bank of England’s latest wheeze, to force lenders to grill mortgage applicants for three hours about when they plan to start a family, what size of engine has their car got, and how many times a week do they eat out, to base the amount they’re prepared to lend on a scientific analysis of what they imagine is the applicant’s ability to repay, entirely ignores the obvious fact that when faced with adversity, people adapt. They change their behaviour, cut-back, get a third job. They don’t just throw in the towel, they tighten their belts and wait for better times to return. While, in a rising market, the lender cannot lose: they have first call on the property and in extremis can repossess it.

Whereas, by restricting lending again, on top of the unofficial lending squeeze the banks are already operating, the bank is making it even harder for first-time buyers to get on the ladder. We will swing rapidly from threatened unbridled economic growth to a new recession. The ultimate effect will not be to increase the supply of new housing, thereby encouraging prices to fall, because if no-one can buy, no-one will build. And if vendors cannot achieve the prices they need to move, they won’t move.

And then, we need to consider whether there really is a housing bubble, anywhere other than in the overdeveloped and under-supplied South-East of England, in London (a different economy altogether) and in just one or two favoured areas around the country? Prices have been rising differentially, varying from continuing to flatline in some areas to an absurd 18% increase in London in 2013/14, driven by foreign buyers seeking tax shelter. Penalising all buyers nationally fails to take these major price differences into account, is regressive and punishes both buyers and sellers in the less-favoured regions.

The best thing the Bank of England and the Government could do right now is to promote economic growth in the regions, to make them more attractive to working homebuyers.

Wales, for instance, has a regional salary level some 12% below that of England as a whole. If a large helicopter could lift my house and deposit it in central London, the area where I was born and brought up, you would get no change out of £2.5 million for it. As it is, I cannot sell it for £150,000. I live in a perfectly agreeable area, on the edge of a university town next the sea,  within an easy walk of all amenities and the main local employers. But no-one is moving to Wales. It remains an economically underdeveloped, uninviting region.

If the Bank and the Treasury could spread the wealth without falling into the old trap of grant-assisting development – an approach which, with €1.6 billion of EU Objective One funding led in Wales merely to an exponential growth in the number of quangos created to spend the money, expenditure upwards of £60 million on promoting the minority Welsh language, and to no visible increase in jobs, infrastructure improvements or inward investment – or, indeed, to the number of Welsh-speakers – then perhaps it would reduce the pressure on housing in London and the South-East, and the bubble would deflate softly and quietly, I could sell my house and retire abroad.

Instead they are just making it harder for people in the low-income regions to buy and sell properties. Of course, in London and the South-East it will have no effect, other than to push-up wages and bonuses in line with housing costs. Rich people don’t need mortgages.

It seems we have a new Governor of the Bank of England who is a brilliant man, no doubt, but somewhat lacking in the lateral thinking department. One feels that perhaps he should stick to banking, as the UK property market seems to be something of a mystery to him, being as he is a thoughtful and rational, not to say boring, Canadian.

 

Postscriptum

A small estate of smaller houses has been put up across the road. I would like to say it has mushroomed, but it has been 18 months now and the men are still busy digging and laying pipes and cables amid heaps of soil. Mushrooms would have fruited and spored by now.

Like Prince Charles’ Poundbury community in Dorset, each house has been carefully designed to be subtly organic-looking, and gaily painted in cream and white. I have tried to imagine who will live in them. At first, I imagined the usual sort of zombie neighbours from hell: men with spiders tattooed on their heads; obese teenage mothers pushing prams full of sliced, white bread (oh, sorry, that’s your child); devil dogs; abandoned cars; a forest of satellite dishes, Romanians.

The other day, however, I noticed something really scary. None of the houses have chimneys! It was a clue. Now, I see an estate of bland, quasi-autonomous cybercouples, polite as Mormons, quietly humming as they go about their inscrutable business, wishing one another good morning over portion-sized bowls of cornflakes, using Bluetooth-enabled devices to open and close their curtains and quiz the fridge on its contents, self-driving Google cars in their tiny driveways….

 

A portrait of Dylan

I am greatly amused, as you know, when my life and horoscope seem to run in parallel, as it confounds to some extent, certainly in that region of my brain where smug self-satisfaction lurks, the sceptics and rationalists who poo-poo the whole thing.

This morning, according to Mr Russell Grant’s syndicated column on Yahoo!,

“Lately, you’ve achieved a series of victories. Stop commanding the spotlight. Yield it to those who have been working behind the scenes.”

Amazing, or what?

Last night, the small-theatre company I belong to ended a run of seven critically acclaimed performances of a play, called ‘A Portrait of Dylan’, in which I modestly portrayed the minor character of the 1930s Welsh communist agitator, Bert Trick, who is credited with being the first to encourage the young Dylan Thomas to seek a wider audience.

And in the second act I was one of the US doctors who succeeded in killing Thomas, 39, with incompetence (his vainglorious and typically Welsh boasting about his drinking exploits led them to miss the fact that he had become diabetic and gone into shock. Instead of insulin, they shot him full of barbiturates and morphine.)

Which explains the part about ‘victories’, because after a long career as a non-actor, and despite my advancing years, I have at last succeeded in recalling to memory, in a public performance, over five nights and two matinees, the majority of my lines. (Glowing tributes must of course be paid to those who took the more stellar roles. This isn’t a performance review…. And to the folk who toiled behind the scenes, sometimes under difficult circumstances – the lighting and sound engineers, the ASM, the Director…)

But what of our hero?

2014 sees  the 100th anniversary of Thomas’ birth: a necessary corrective to English Shakespeare’s 450th . The Welsh nation is, not entirely fairly, burdened with a reputation for having a bit of an inferiority complex, that leads sometimes to the lionisation of some of the more mediocre talents produced in the Valleys; although, again in fairness, it must be admitted that Wales is a tiny nation that has punched far above its weight in terms of delivering international celebrity talent down the years.

So, we can become bored with the obsession here with all things Dylan – there are numerous Thomas trails and locational shrines – especially in this, his centenary year, when it is impossible to escape the ‘bloody man’. Although a huge part of the Celtic tradition, poetry is still a minority taste. More people hail Dylan’s reputed genius, than have ever read him.

The interesting thing about Thomas is that the jury is still out, and deeply divided. Much of his work seems pretentious and deliberately obscure – ‘allusive’, as one of the characters describes it in the play. On the other hand, much of it seems to contain an extraordinary mythic power, taking us as deep inside the shadowy, theatrical underworld of words and their meanings as we are prepared to venture. In that respect he owes fealty to the religious poet – not Gwylim Marlais Thomas, his sanctimonious great-uncle, but Gerard Manley Hopkins.

And what of Thomas himself? An early postmodern celebrity, perhaps, his is a self-created, self-destructive enigma, wrapping himself alternately in the grey ‘chapel’ conformism and Friday-night misdemeanours of the working-class mining communities around him, while at the same time affecting a rich, BBC ‘received pronunciation’ – he refused to speak Welsh, and pronounced his own name not in the Welsh way, as ‘Dullan’, but insisted on the English ‘Dillon’ – and revelled in – while also despising – the adulation of the London and New York literati.

Stunted, pug-ugly, curly-haired, strutting, hard-drinking ‘boyo’ from Cwmdonkin Drive, Thomas had nevertheless burst forth from a staid, middle-class academic family, which he both respectfully feared and revolted against. He seems to have exerted an extraordinary fascination, too, on women of a certain upper-class sort (having, as he boasts in the play, exhausted ‘every available orifice’ in his native Swansea).

He could certainly drink, even if he found it increasingly difficult to hold it, and necessary to lie about it. (My actor mother still remembers him hanging out with the louche crowd in the pubs and clubs around London’s theatreland.) Wales has, unfortunately, bred its share of self-created ‘heroic drinkers’, among whom the actor Richard Burton was pre-eminent. As in other working-class communities, deep respect for ‘a man’s pint’ goes with the black landscape.

Much of the play is concerned with the mutually abusive, alcoholic, yet oddly affecting relationship with Caitlin, his ‘mad Irish bitch’ from Hammersmith.

A fellow self-sustaining drama-queen, Caitlin struggled to retain her individuality in the deepening shadow of her celebrity husband, obsessively clawing at hopes of artistic fame and fortune, mainly as an untalented terpsichorean, while reducing herself to the part of a ‘tidy wife’, bringing up his three children in the straitened, small-minded tedium of a south-Wales seaside village. For her, domestic frustration provided a necessary casus belli, anger fuelling her irrational self-belief in place of the need for actual advancement, which was less likely.

Interestingly, the play depicts Caitlin as the physically violent one and Thomas as the ever-conciliating punchbag. Both of them quickly became bored when they were apart, more often as the American hunger for the novelty of the appallingly rude little man with the posh English voice and obscure lyrics took off. They were serially unfaithful to each other, but not without jealousy. ‘Bloody man’, she snarls in the play, reading a newly received letter floridly declaring his undying love and lust for her while he is depicted simultaneously romping three thousand miles away with his American paramour, Liz Reitell. ‘I hate it when you’re away, and I hate it when you’re here.’

And that’s just about how it feels here, five months and God-knows how many celebratory events into Dylan 100. We genuflect at the shrines to Dylan Thomas, endlessly we ponder the enigma, but what can we make of the real man, other than that he never became a real man? Only his soaring, sonorous verse is left to us, yet it is often his words that are most enigmatic of all.

And didn’t he know it.

That PS: the sub-editor speaks

Postscriptum

A BBC local radio DJ has been forced to quit his job after playing the 1935 recording of Ambrose singing The Sun Has Got His Hat On. (Why he did it, God knows. That’s BBC local radio for you. He’d probably run out of needletime for anything still in copyright.)

The lyrics include the lines (in reference to the sun): “He’s been turning negroes out in Timbuktoo, and now he’s coming over here to do the same to you.”

It was supposed to be a joke. Historically, people of colour tend to come from countries of sun. That is, of course, not intrinsically funny. Nor is the idea of people of pallor sunbathing to achieve darker skin. We mustn’t laugh.

The Sun Has Got His Hat On is a culturally mildly offensive witticism fairly typical of its dimwitted time and deserving at best of a shrug and getting on with the ironing. It is hardly the same as calling someone a ‘black bastard’ to their face, is it? Or refusing a black couple a bed for the night in your B&B?

But it is the use of the word ‘negroes’ in the modern-day context of cultural fascism (I can no longer write the words ‘political correctness’) that appears to have worried the station manager, in the wake of the Clarkson row. (BBC local radio station managers tend to think that what happens today in Dulverton, with its 243 elderly listeners, happens tomorrow in the world.)

Not only that, but in reporting the story on the news, the Radio 4 newsreader was abjectly forced to explain that the song contained ‘the n-word’, So it could not even be spoken in the context of a supposedly objective report on the incident, by the world’s most objective news service.

What was this terrible word, that we were not being allowed to hear? Nitrogen? Nephritis? Neologism? Newcastle?

Nanny?

This is self-censorship carried to the extreme. What other words are we not being allowed to hear? Words saying that we are secretly deporting all the Moslems on trains to Poland? That farmworkers are starving in Lincolnshire? That Chancellor Osborne has run off with the money?

What are these culturally sensitive apparatchiks (whose own common language we no longer fully understand) really afraid of?

Now we know, it is of speaking Truth unto nations. Next, we shall all be wearing armbands of various kinds and spitting on strangers in the street.

– Uncle Bogler