Friends, eh? Who’d have ’em?

More evidence emerges of the Prime Minister’s really rather unacceptably poor judgement.

I’m sorry to go banging on about British politics, especially now I’m limited to one new Post a week if I’m going to spin it out so I obsessively reach my 500th Post precisely on the fourth anniversary of the foundation of the BogPo next 27 February, in plenty of time for the Chilcot report.

But there is a mounting pile of evidence to suggest that Dave (‘Andy Coulson is my friend’) Cameron may well be the worst PM at smelling the coffee we have had since Anthony Eden tried to invade Egypt without asking the White House. (I guess that just outpips Thatcher’s poll tax imbroglio. I was personally all in favour of the poll tax, it’d have been less than I’m paying now to have my one black binbag picked up once a fortnight.)

You may or may not be aware of a London-based charity called Kids’ Company, that went bust recently. Its founder, the alarmingly large and flamboyant Ms Camila Batmanghelidjh, probably known to her staff as Batwoman, has been quoted as claiming she had devised a policy of ‘bullying’ the government into shovelling money at the problem of inner-city feral children, bypassing the normal checks and procedures other charities have to go through when applying for funding.

The National Audit Office has reported today that the charity received some £46 million of public money over the past ten years; while other reports have claimed recently that the cash has not been entirely accounted for, as there has been no proper audit trail.

Ms B. argued last month in front of a Commons Select Committee that it has been accounted for, her accounts were regularly reviewed and the cash she was handing out apparently willy-nilly to families with problem kids already receiving State handouts was a worthwhile investment. In any case, she was far too busy to keep accounts.

The problem being, that since the charity was compulsorily wound-up last summer and its caseload redistributed among local authorities, many of the 30 thousand kids she was claiming to be helping to lead useful and productive lives seem to have logged-off. In the meantime, the Metropolitan Police are investigating accusations of child-abuse among her staff. It’s all got a bit messy.

Now, according to the former Minister for Children in the Department of Education, Tim Loughton, when Ms B. approached the department two years ago to demand an extra £3 million to stop the charity from imminently going bust, which – she argued (Mr Alan Yentob, the Creative Director of BBC TV, is also involved in the role of Chair) – would result in feral children rioting all over the streets, stabbing each other to death, he put his foot down. No more money without proper accounting.

Why would he say that? Because he is another Tory cunt who loves being beastly to poor children? Well, no, actually. He looks like one, but he sounded rather nice. It’s because he was fully aware, as apparently was everyone else, for at least the past ten years, except the inhabitants of No. 10, that the charity was pretty much insolvent and few people seemed to know what they were doing with the money. (There is no suggestion of wrongdoing, only excessive generosity.)

But guess what? That’s right! According to Mr Loughton, Ms B. then sent to Downing St. what he calls ‘the Dear Dave letter’, threatening to embarrass the government publicly, and the order came down from on high (not for the first time): ‘Give ‘em whatever they want!’*

The fate of the £3 million is currently disputed. The Cabinet Office has denied overruling the Minister or ever receiving a letter. ‘Did. Didn’t. Did. Didn’t…’ Whatever, yet another of Mr Cameron’s ‘friends’ appears to have become an embarrassing persona non grata at No. 10.

Postscriptum

1 December: Oh dear, it looks like another of Mr Cameron’s closest friends has just been struck off Sam’s Christmas list.

Lord Andrew Feldman, Tory peer and co-Chair of the party, is coming under increasing pressure to quit following internal reports of bullying and sexual harrassment among Young Conservatives, one of whom was allegedly driven to suicide. Lord Feldman is said to have authorised £1m budget for a YC Road Trip campaign before the election last May.

There is no suggestion that Lord Feldman knew anything untoward was going on, which may be why people think he should step down. That, or his terrible hairpiece. His co-Chair, Tory cunt par excellence Grant Shapps, who – he has denied it – is said to have been made aware of complaints at the time, has already resigned his ministerial post at Overseas Development.

The go-getting Young Conservative organiser at the centre of the row, Mark Clarke, denies everything. (It’s apparently a legal requirement to raise that. I wouldn’t have mentioned it otherwise.). A top firm of solicitors has been brought in to conduct the inquiry; one of  about five million currently generating fees for the critically endangered legal profession, facing legal aid oblivion.

In the wake of the story, it has apparently come as a shock for politicians to discover that their behind-the-scenes culture is one of ranting, panic-stricken, foul-mouthed machismo.

Don’t they watch TV? 

 

The following section has been redacted By Order

On the subject of the Chilcot report into the manifold causes of the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, we learn today that it is already two million words long and the audio version runs for 128 hours.

(God, I wish I had that voiceover contract, I needn’t spend the rest of my life writing this stuff.)

Other factoids for the Guinness Book of Records include that the enquiry was actually completed five years ago, that the whole process has taken longer than the war itself, but final publication will not happen before next July at the earliest.

The reason for the unconscionable delay is said not to be ‘Maxwellisation’ – a concession whereby anyone criticised in the report was allowed to read their bit and deploy a sharpened scalpel without being given a deadline – politicians, spymasters and civil servants being notoriously slow readers – but simply the sheer weight of words requiring lots of paper and ink and one of those trolley things to move the proofs around.

Even now, the final draft has still to go to the security services for vetting, in case it is a State secret that Tony Blair might have deliberately misled the House in order to actualise a scenario that, like Russia winning the FIFA bid for the soccer World Cup, he had already pre-arranged for convenience on a trip to Washington at the request of his ‘friend’, W. Bush.

Friends, eh? Who’d have ’em?

But hang about…. Didn’t Blair just apologise on CNN last week for the errors of the intelligence community, an overreliance on one maladjusted Iraqi source that falsely led him (and the terrified dwarves in the Commons) to believe in all honesty that Satanic Saddam possessed many evil Weapons of Mass Destruction that he could unleash on British voters at only 45 minutes’ notice….?

The same intelligence community – MI5, MI6, GCHQ – the NSA – that Blair now admits screwed-up the Dodgy Dossier in the first place, thus starting a war that is still going on twelve years later, is being allowed to vet its own file?

You may have paid £millions to M’Learned Friends and have yet to fork out a load more to buy the book, but don’t expect you’ll be reading all two million words for at least the next fifty years.

Expect instead large sections of the Chilcot report to arrive in your local Waterstone’s with liberally blacked-out bits.

National security, old boy. Another snifter?**

 

*While it is indeed reprehensible that Mr Cameron may have been so prolix on a personal level with the taxpayer’s £3 million, to such nebulous effect, what are we to make of his sidekick Osborne’s glib promise to chuck £100 BILLION at vaguely defined infrastructure projects to join up the dots of our teeming northern cities into one great ‘Powerhouse’?

This from a man who argued vehemently only last week, with much sneering of Old Etonian insults at his political opponents, that it is an economic necessity if we are to balance the books by 2020 to remove any public financial support on 1st April 2016 from three million of the poorest working families in the land.

 

**My, but we’re busy this morning. The Home Secretary is now demanding that EVERY search term entered by EVERY computer user in Britain should be stored for one year by law, and fully accessible to the authorities, in case further investigation is needed.

I am imagining my son being imminently rendered to Cuba by executive jet, for enhanced conversations. A third-year student of International Politics, his special subject is warfare in the 21st century.

I’m not entirely certain either about the occasional reference to ‘XXX – Pornhub’ buried away in my own deleted searches file (it gets lonely here!). Can the FBI nail you for that?

I take comfort in the thought that we are all innocent until proven guilty.

 

 

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Repetition is the soul of dullness

I’m sick of hearing it, quite frankly.

Whenever ministers and members of the present Conservative government are questioned about their economic policy, they continue to put me into a glowering rage by reminding us yet again that it’s all the fault of the last Labour administration for ‘mismanaging the economy’.

This politically contrived, cynical mantra is, I am sorry to say, a total, bloody fiction. But, as Josef Goebbels frequently observed, if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.

The last Labour administration left office in May 2010. Okay, it was perhaps silly of the outgoing Treasury Secretary, Liam Byrne, to leave a note on his desk, apologising that there was ‘no money left’. But it was meant to be a joke, and was not without precedent in the annals of government. The trouble being that there was a general impression whipped-up by the Tory press that this time, it was true.

The Tories and their Chancellor Gideon ‘George’ Osborne, scion of a wallpaper dynasty (he’s obviously on a roll… insert orange smiley face if you must), have since had five and a half years in which to put matters right. So if there is still a problem with the economy now it is surely they – not the last Labour administration – who have failed to do anything about it. Any such imputation may, in the Tory party handbook of convenient excuses, be easily shrugged off with: ‘So, blame our previous Coalition partners, those weedy Liberals from the Lower Fourth’.

And again, a lobotomised public, glassily fixated on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘The Great Bake Off’, is happy to be incapable of remembering that far back.

It is arguable that the economy would have recovered to the extent it has by now, even with the Monster Raving Loony Party in Downing St. Economies have their own cyclical impetus. ‘Your investments may go down as well as up’, as they say. Another formula from the FSA Handbook of Seductive Marketing Ploys, ‘Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up the payments’ seems to be the underlying message being drilled into us by the Tories.

Osborne’s economic policy basically consists of putting on a Bob the Builder plastic safety helmet and having himself filmed visiting something called a factory, to show he is on the side of hardworking people, while lying heroically about how good he is at managing the economy compared with the dismal performance of the Brown/Darling combo of yore.

What isn’t being said in the right quarters is that he’s been borrowing more money than the previous Labour administration did – making hay while the very low interest-rate sun shines – what he can’t borrow he’s been getting the Bank of England to print, and shovelling it at the still-dodgy banks. Meanwhile, far from Whitehall, the race to the bottom between key oil-price influencers Saudi Arabia and the USA has provided him with a uniquely low rate of inflation.

What then passes for Tory economic policy?

Deflation; derisory interest rates for savers; deregulation of pensions enriching spivs; everyone on zero-hours contracts; fabulously unaffordable infrastructure and defence initiatives; bumming the price of a Chicken Chow Mein off the President of China, ‘Xi Who Must Be Obeyed’; draining the lifeblood out of health, education, renewable energy, police and local government services; slashing the social security budget; attacking the benefits of the disabled; forcing dead people back to work; making it impossible for unions to strike; clawing back rent subsidies from anyone suspected of having a spare room in their social housing unit; robbing £4 billion in family credits from the already empty pockets of the three million poorest working people in the land, again with the oleaginous lie on his sneering Old Etonian lips that they are going to be better off one day, whatever the economic experts say….

In short, it’s not an economic policy to pretend that the world’s sixth (and Europe’s second) richest nation cannot afford these things. Osborne and Cameron’s ‘austerity’ programme is at base (oops, I nearly wrote ‘at heart’…) an ideological drive to roll back the State, with the aim of ensuring Labour never gets into government again and superefficient private industry can take over running everything. The Tory tendency is always to try to manipulate national policy for party political advantage, hence the suggestion that they might gerrymander the unelected House of Lords to subvert any further opposition to their disastrous legislative programme in the Commons.

The persistent myth-making that Labour ‘mismanaged the economy’ – something, sadly, that too many people who take not enough interest in these matters seem happy to believe – ignores several salient facts.

One is that Gordon Brown genuinely enjoyed a global reputation for economic prudence. It gave him the moral leadership urgently needed from someone in authority when the greed and stupidity of the international banking community drove the global economy into meltdown in 2007/8, to propose a viable way out of the shitstorm.

Agreed, it cost the country billions – maybe as much as a trillion pounds – to bail out the UK banking sector. And of course that was a terrible blow to the British economy. Average wages have only this year recovered to where they were in 2007. But it wasn’t unique to Britain, and the crisis is still not over. What would a Tory administration have done, under the circumstances? Let the banks go to the wall – market forces, old boy? I somehow doubt it.

Another fact then, is that a Tory administration in 2007/8 would have done exactly the same as Labour; while a third fact is that the economy was actually growing faster under Labour, until the crash, with more people being taken out of poverty. There weren’t then nearly a million people depending on food banks and free school meals (which the Tories now propose to take away) to keep Death from their door.

And another fact is that there have been three major recessions and a sterling crisis mis-engineered by Tory governments since 1979, when Thatcher came to power; while both Labour and the Tories have continued crazily to rely on house-price inflation to drive the economy for them, deliberately underbuilding to force the market up.

But all that is Bollinger under the bridge, my friends… we are, after all, the party of economic competence! (Cabinet papers released today outlining MI5 concerns about the relationship between arch-Tory peer Lord ‘Bob’ Boothby and brutal underworld queer, Ronnie Kray, cruising for rent boys in the 1960s, show that the Conservatives can also sometimes be the party of sexual incontinence.)

If there was financial mismanagement, it was surely the bankers who practised it; recklessly and greedily commoditising debt. Brown may fairly be accused of failing to get a grip on the excesses of the financial services sector, sucking-up to the bankers, but would anyone from the Tory side have gone against them? I think probably it is even less likely. And what of Mr Bernanke and the Federal Reserve? Did the USA do better?

There is a date in the calendar that the media sometimes seizes on in unimaginative desperation as being the first day in the year when, it is said, the average taxpayer ceases working for the government and starts earning money for themselves and their family.

A modest proposal: can we not have a day fixed sometime during the life of every Parliament, after which it would be a statutory offence for MPs to blame the nation’s woes on the previous administration?

I’m sick of hearing it. You should be too.

 

Postscriptum

One of the Cameron sneers ‘n’ smears before the May 2015 election that seemed to stick was the accusation that his Labour opponent, the luckless Ed Miliband, ‘would promise anything to get elected’.

Seven days before the election, ‘Dave’ went on national TV to face some ordinary people and assured a well-primed and rather gorgeous member of the invited audience that he ‘absolutely had no plans’ to include removing tax credits from the poorest working families as part of the unidentified package of economic reforms that was promised to reduce the welfare bill by £12 billion.

This was the most enormous lie, and he duly got elected.

Yesterday, despite massive intimidation the House of Lords sensibly told Messrs Cameron and Osborne to take that measure out of the package and rethink it, because the government’s own-appointed independent Office of Budget Responsibility had warned them that three million families would be worse-off by £1,300 a year, even after the introduction of the unenforceable ‘living wage’ and other smoke-and-mirrors tactics to sugar the cyanide.

It was a warning Mr Cameron had sneeringly dismissed only a day earlier on Andrew Marr; insisting that these people would be better off in the Tories’ new high-wage, low-tax economy. (By ‘high-wage’, we are talking about £7.20 an hour for working 16 hours a week on zero-hours contracts. ‘Low-tax’ conveniently ignores the fact that a) these people aren’t taxpayers, they don’t earn enough, and b) VAT is a regressive 20 per cent tax on purchases that remains unaffected by the proposed measures.)

This policy of making teaching assistants and hospital cleaners pay for the excesses of the banking community made the Tories’ slogan that they were now ‘the true party of working people’ look a trifle tenuous. In desperation, they have tried to spin the entire sorry affair into a constitutional crisis, rather than a fiscal blunder – cuntily claiming it was all a Lib-Lab conspiracy because they were sore at losing the election.

Pur-lease!

We may remind ourselves that Liberal leader Nick Clegg’s political career was trashed, along with his Parliamentary party, because he promised before the 2010 election that, if elected to office, he would not raise university tuition fees. Although not elected to office, he did find himself the junior member of a coalition government that did in the event raise tuition fees – over what eventually became his dead body.

Let’s hope this disgraceful ‘volte farce’ by the Tories also sees ‘Schweinsteiger’ Cameron in the political gutter, blinking up at the stars. But somehow I doubt it will. He seems to be able to sneer and bully his way out of anything.

 

A message to Readers

B.t.w., fans, I have calculated that if I Post one Post a week in the 18 weeks between now and 27 February, the fourth anniversary of the founding of this, the international news organ of reference, The Boglington Post, we shall have reached on that date the propitious number of EXACTLY 500 Posts, a colossal literary achievement equivalent in weight to the publication of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, only with fewer Russians.

It will require a slowdown, however, to bring the good old BogPo in line with the falling productivity of British workers. To all those eagerly anticipating a continuation of the current frantic rate of output, I apologise. In extremis, we may have to cheat by adding more PSs to existing Posts, as above….

Tough titty.

  • Herr Professor Doktor Ernst P. von-und-zu Bogl, Editor-at-Large. Boglington-am-Zee, Europe, The Middle East.

Tearing down the walls

top 8 lessons about loans with bad credit to learn before You hit 30
astraforum.fr/testfofo//index.php?action=profile;…x
marciaphilipp@aol.com
23.232.130.74

I’ve just Deleted another 136 spam emails off my Yahoo! Account in-file thing.

I generally hit the little dustbin icon once the number goes over 25. You know my fascination with propitious numbers.

Twenty-five is just about the largest number of Spam emails whose headings I can scan visually to see if any of them are either genuine or interestingly relevant, before totally losing interest.

A hundred and thirty-six Spam emails is really way beyond my sphere of curiosity, and inevitably results in me deleting them in bulk, unscanned.

What I am curious about, however, is why I have recently started getting so many?

A hundred and thirty-six was the overnight total, received in just 12 hours. On Monday morning, after only 24 hours of not attending to the housework, I had to dump 216. At this rate, around 1,500 Spammers a week (of course many are duplicated) are sending me urgent messages about payday loans, herbal supplements, Russian women, IRS forgiveness programs, incontinence pads and reverse mortgage options, roughly one every four minutes, and I am not giving two shits for any of them, bruvv.

You’d think they’d have got the message by now. But deleting them only causes them to breed more. And, as I have bogld before, there does seem to be a disturbing pattern, a coincidence of themes appearing to be linked to stuff I have randomly Posted on this site a few hours earlier.

Take, for instance, the Spam email heading posted at the start of this extended rave. It appeared within an hour of my writing the words contained in the paragraph before the one before this, referring to ‘mortgage options’ – not a phrase I use very often, as I have none. It goes on to drivel randomly about mortgages. It is so obviously a Spam message (I am long past 30) that I am bewildered as to how it snuck like an illegal migrant onto the well-fenced desk of the Boglington Post?

Hmmn. I shall come back to it later…

At the same time, there lurks in the subterranean Spam section of my other, more presentable, Gmail account, only the one message. I have left it there for several days all by itself as a marker-stone, a tribute to the remarkable efficacy of Google’s filtration system; also because I’m feeling guilty that it’s not entirely Spam….

I hereby confess, being a single man, to having registered months ago as a non-paid-up member of a local dating site. I planned shortly thereafter to cancel my registration, on account of the unprepossessing images of everyone else on it; the 100 per cent shortage in Boglington of available, attractive women under 55 with university degrees, independent incomes and a desire for adventure without children, the insistence that I part with a large sum of money merely to be allowed to email anyone remotely fitting the description; but I can’t figure out how to escape.

Simply asking to be released didn’t seem to do it for the owners, they kept on telling me I had important messages, so I naughtily told Google they were sending me Spam.

The point being, that whether I am drowned in the stuff or starved of it, I do at least have the freedom to decide for myself whether to bin it, or to stupidly send off my bank details.

Here at BogPo, things start to get murkier.

According to Arkroyal, the WordPress Spammeister, I have been protected from the horrifying contents of over four and a half thousand Spam Comments since I commenced bogling you on 27 February, 2012. (Could he not just delete them, rather than cluttering up every server in Arizona with spurious vitriol?)

I have no way of knowing if many genuine Readers’ Letters have got caught up in the same gungy lump of smelly crud that has built up around the Spam filter at Word Central. I have not been allowed to choose for myself whether to accept or reject those messages. I have not seen them.

And yet, and yet… Of the perhaps two or three Comments I am allowed to see during the course of a week, 98 per cent are so obviously Spam messages that you do wonder what criteria he is using to decide whether to let them through or block them?

There is a certain style of writing these Spam comments that is redolent of computerised garbage, like a very poor Google translation into English from some obscure Ugro-Finnish dialect spoken only by retired herdsmen in Lappland.

I have sometimes out of desperation based these, my Post themes on the more outstanding examples of Spamulous gibberish I am invited to Approve; as with the textual contents of the message whose header begins this diatribe, with which I shall not trouble you further: it is the Bogler’s Burden, not yours, to bear.

One obvious clue is surely the length and complexity of the email address attributed to the sender, running sometimes to six lines and including some subroutines that could indeed be genuine addresses of people and companies unaware that their accounts are being plagiarised for the purpose.

Another clue is that they are always Commenting on the same, highly obscure Page; an article grimping and miring* about University entrance requirements that I uploaded as an archival item to the BogPo site nearly four years ago, and which has deservedly never once appeared in the Stats of most-read, or indeed read-at-all, items of the week.

A third clue is that they never refer directly to the content of the Page, other than effusing that I should write more of the same (sometimes with maximised h-tags, whatever they are).

I surmise therefore that there is some subterranean mechanical goings-on going-on here, in which no human agency is involved: machine-reading, machine-writing, machine-Spamming in the spidery dark undergrowth of the web, possibly for obscure purposes. Why would anyone commission this stuff, which never receives a reply? Is all as it seems?

One such message managed to get past Arkwright yesterday. It ran to over a thousand words in English, yet ultimately non-linguistic, nonsense. As I gazed at it blankly, I noticed that a black box bearing some alternative text was flashing behind it every few seconds, at subliminal speed. I immediately killed it. Has the damage been done? Am I going to develop a subconscious craving for ice-cream?

I have no idea what that was about, or why. All I know is that, from time to time, a rare Spam Comment slips between the cracks and ends up on my desk in the offices of the Boglington Post, where it shouldn’t.

In the meantime, how much meaningful communication is being lost, caught in the filter?

I recently corresponded briefly with the lovely ‘Ella’, for instance, who wrote in to commiserate and to offer some well-meaning advice in connection with a lengthy enquiry I had made into why no-one considers me employable anymore.

She attempted to reassure me that the BogPo is indeed read and admired widely in the community. Yet I have almost no evidence that it is: other than anything your Uncle Bogler has Posted on the unrelated themes of a) stately homes and how to live in one, and b) the ill-fated Comex expedition of 1967, both of which attract droves.

It now occurs to me that it is possible there is a huge chorus of readers out there, silently mouthing their praises, encouragement, delight, scorn, defiance, withering criticism and strident legalistic demands for retraction, that I am simply not hearing through the thickly padded walls of the asylum. You must think us awfully rude not replying.

Tear down these walls, Mr WordPress.

Let us breathe the air of well-optimised freedom!

 

*Hundreds of you have asked me politely what the phrase ‘grimping and miring’ means? It is my own invention!

Allow me to explain.

Today’s word is: Onomatopoeia, which as you know means a word that sounds like what it means (unlike ‘Onomatopoeia’…). Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will recall that The Hound of the Baskervilles haunts a particularly bleak and boggy part of the Dartmoor National Park in Devon. Known as ‘The Great Grimpen Mire’, it sounds just like the kind of dispiriting place you’d moan about a lot, if you were stuck there for any length of time.

Like the Labour Party’s Smith Square headquarters, possibly.

Job done.

Postscriptum

Another obviously Spamulous email is presented to me for Approval this morning, falling between the cracks at Word Central, suggesting I include more h-tags in my Posts in order to better my Googly rankings.  Mind your own business, is what I say. Crapulous baboon.

Accosting a bored teenager, I have now bothered to learn that an h-tag is the # symbol that you use to attract attention to whatever tiresome little comment it is that you have made on the Twitter channel, prattling in 140 characters or less about some pointless and probably misunderstood thing somebody almost famous has said, which you have taken completely out of context. (I agree, 140 characters doesn’t allow for a lot of context.)

Be it known to these persons present, I have no truck with Twitter, Bookface or any other ‘social media’ requiring the use of tags.  I plead whichever Amendment it is that says I don’t have to incriminate myself. I don’t like them, they are of monumental disinterest and I won’t have one in the house.

So there.

 

Pollocaust

It seems the humble chicken is being severely punished by the forces of Karma for having formerly dared to be naughty dinosaurs.

I started to notice a couple of years ago, that it was becoming virtually impossible to find any food in my local Morrison’s supermarket, that wasn’t made partly or entirely out of chicken. Being as we are what we eat, that went for my fellow shoppers too.

In my fevered imaginings, it began to seem as though the very ice-cream and cakes sections, the bakery, the canned foods sections and everything in the freezers, the enormous bags of potato chips, were all branded with added chicken, or at worst  chicken flavouring. Warm roast chickens sweating in cellophane bags were gently breeding salmonella on special tables everywhere.The grab-and-go office lunch section was filling up with chicken salad and mayo wraps…

A species that had once upon a time roamed the Earth as a fierce velociraptor or mighty T-rex (and survived through the Holocene era by hiding out in the New Guinea jungle) has been reduced over 6,500 millennia, surviving the rise of our ancestral tree-shrews and successive earth-shattering asteroid events and supervolcanoes to become a flightless vermiphage the size and texture of a feather-coated handbag, with a similar level of intellect, is nowadays artificially bred and laced with water and antibiotics in tiny cages in its billions the world over for the sole benefit of hungry humankind.

In the strictly numerical sense it is a highly successful species. But how successful is a bird that is allowed to live for only a few weeks, debeaked and crouching in its own shit, existing purely to be turned into flaccid,  plumped-up flavourless nuggets for impoverished schoolkids and late-night drunks?

I put it to you, not very many hens survive in the wild nowadays.

Certainly, all the different varieties of cook-chill ready meals on my Morrison’s shelves seem to be chicken-based. Chicken Korma, Chicken Rogan Josh, Chicken Dopiaza, Chicken Biryani, Tikka Masalla, Chicken and Ham Macaroni Cheese, Breaded shaped chicken breast-meat with cheesy topping (with added chicken)… Chicken and Leek Pie, Chicken Lasagna, Shepherd’s Pie with Chicken, Fish Pie with Chicken and Rice (Paella), Chicken picnic slices (Ingredients: Water, Sugar, Chicken (48%) (That’s enough chicken recipes, we get the picture. It’s only a serving suggestion. Ed.)

The depressing list goes on and on. No other meats seemed to be available in any shape or form, other than possibly Turkey, which is chicken writ-large. And there, occupying one entire aisle five shelves high and forty feet long, were the plumped-up corpses of more chickens, lines of them: naked, trussed, their underparts exposed and suspiciously pink, indicative of death by carbon monoxide gassing; whole, or pre-hacked into little pieces: breasts here, legs there, giant multi-packs of ‘barbeque’ thighs and wings – packs of bloodied livers – and on the top shelf, the real hardcore Chicken porn: corn-fed, free-range, slaughtered-practically-at-birth, underage chickens… but not a drop of blood to be seen.

I once read that forty BILLION chickens are reared and slaughtered worldwide every year, a veritable ‘Pollocaust’. Today, listening idly to the Food Programme on BBC R4, while tipping another expensive sachet of slimy chicken-in-jelly catfood into her bowl, I learned that one UK slaughterhouse alone produces two million dead hens every week, to supply the supermarket trade with pallid, tasteless, denatured protein, of which over 40% will end up rotting in landfill instead of ever being purchased, and another 40% after being scraped into the bin by desperate housewives who no longer know how to boil even that essential chicken precursor, an egg…

The one thing that separates Man from the run-of-the-mill beasts is our capacity to overindulge in industrialised mass murder of our fellow sentient creatures; and then to deny the fact of it to ourselves. Not only to deny it, but to turn it on its head: Mankind is actually THREATENED by chickens, or so the scare stories go.

Even as we strip the moist flesh from the legbone of destiny, we are staring in horrified fascination at the prospect of a pneumonic plague of Bird Flu, that any day now threatens to engulf one of the dirtier nations where chickens are bred by the billion, Vietnam or Thailand or China – from where the Western media morbidly expects the first news to filter out of an uncontrollable pandemic resulting from the inevitable mutation of a deadly zoonotic virus capable of leaping from hen to human, from airline passenger (some migrant, obviously) to crowded city, drowning us in our own blood-flecked sputum: poetic justice, of a sort.

Nevertheless, cheap chicken is kind of keeping the world’s poor fed.  It’s a moral dilemma.

Isn’t it?

Epilogue

‘A Reader’ points out the further, religious significance of chicken: it is neither pork, nor beef.

As a consequence of this zoological truism, nobody needs go to war, or be lunched – sorry, ‘lynched’ – over a KFC bucket of neutral chicken wings, or a bowl of chicken soup. Dum-dum cartridges may safely be greased with chicken-fat and no sepoys mutiny, no Black Holes of Kolkata open up to receive fragrant colonial ladies. Hindoo and Musselman may safely graze, together if they wish.

The egregious lack of a chicken-sensitive dietary edict in any of the world’s major religions, she says, accounts for the widespread popularity of the delicacy in tricky parts of the world where these things matter.

Even this one, apparently.

A thin blue line

The death of PC David Philips hit (apparently) by a stolen pickup truck being pursued following a suspected robbery is awful for his family, friends and colleagues and our hearts go out to them.

But the incident looks more like reckless endangerment than deliberate murder; a swerving attempt to avoid the stinger device PC Philips and a colleague (who managed to jump out of the way) were deploying to burst the car’s tyres – in itself a dangerous measure that could have caused the deaths of anyone in the vehicle.

That at least will be the basis of any defence 18-year-old Clayton Williams will put up. The Wallasey, Merseyside teenager has already publicly confessed, and profoundly apologised to the family, in an extraordinary statement issued through his solicitor, after he was remanded in custody last week, in which he said he had no intention of running down PC Philips and was not aware that he had.

In fact, a number of aspects of this case are somewhat unsettling.

It is common practice, and allowed, for police to issue photographs or photofit pictures, and to name suspects they are looking for in connection with major crimes, before an arrest is made and a charge brought. But at that juncture, reporting restrictions demand that only the accused’s name, age and address may continue to be published.

I cannot remember a single case in which the police have carried out an arrest, the suspect has been charged, appeared in court to confirm their identity and been remanded for a further hearing, and the police have then released to the press, for publication, a photograph of the accused.

Whatever the crime, even a police killing, such an action is totally contrary to the 800-year old principle of British justice, that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. In this case, it looks like the defence has been railroaded into issuing a public admission of guilt even before the accused has been given the opportunity to enter a plea in court: trial by media.

It is not a happy precedent.

That the photograph should be an image taken from social media of the teenager drunk and behaving disgracefully at a party, leering spottily into the lens and raising two fingers, while the faces of people in the background have been pixellated, is clearly highly prejudicial. What motive could the police, if indeed it was they who obtained the photo, possibly have in releasing it to the media, other than to influence a potential future jury of sober and upright adult citizens?

The release of the image provoked a predictable crawling-out from under stones of the rabid tendency among the Commentariat, most of whom called for the youth to be violently tortured and hung as an example to others. Many complained of their disappointment that Clayton Williams, despite his name, had turned out not to be a black man.

The Daily Mail controversialist, Katie Hopkins for once took the side of proportionality and criticised sensationalist media coverage of the family’s outspoken grief as ‘scripted… X-factor videotape… the Instagram nation.’ She cruelly went on to imagine Mrs Williams viewing the TV coverage of her performance with satisfaction. Ms Hopkins is not a very nice person, but in this instance she expressed the unease some may have felt at the way the death of PC Philips was being turned to advantage, at a time of cuts to the police budget.

Again, this seems to have been the police ensuring maximum public opprobrium against the accused, through an orchestrated press conference designed to heighten sympathy for the victim’s fully extended family. Tearful family appeals to the killer to come forward have become commonplace, but in this instance the police already had a suspect in custody, who had apparently confessed – and went on to arrest a number of other, unnamed persons – presumably the boy’s family and friends – as accessories after the fact.

This trawling of connections to suspects is also disturbing, reminiscent as it is of the ancient practice of ‘sippenhaft’ – targeting the wider families of supposedly disloyal resisters to ensure compliance. Commit a crime nowadays and your spouse, your mum, or seemingly anyone on your contacts list who has failed to hand you over to the authorities in good time is likely to end up being hauled in and gaoled on charges of ‘conspiracy to pervert the course of justice’.

The vengeful statements of senior officers should be seen in context of a force that very much protects its own. The Chief Constable’s impassioned remark that ‘he didn’t stand a chance’ made for a good headline, but the inevitable inquiry might, in the cold light of day, possibly find that PC Philips was ordered into the path of the escaping vehicle by a superior; reducing his ‘chances’ still further.

It is unfortunately a truth that many such accidents happen when the police take off in hot pursuit of a suspect: in this case, the red Mitsubishi pickup stolen earlier was spotted lurking in the area an hour after police were called to the robbery, and a high-speed chase ensued. Was PC Philips ordered to put himself in harm’s way? And if so, could the extraordinary media-storm not have been generated in part to deflect attention away from a possibly fatal operational error?

It all begs the question: should we go on risking TV-cop-show-style, high-speed car chases in built-up areas, when we have spotter technology and surveillance cameras and drones, the ability to track vehicles remotely – and even, if not yet then not far off, the technology to send a jamming signal that can switch-off a car’s computerised engine management system?

And what if the victim had not been a policeman, but some other father-of-two making his way home after a night-shift, hit perhaps by a police car? Would the force have treated the case with the same sensationalised prominence, or perhaps relied instead on another anodyne and long-drawn-out IPCC investigation to draw a veil?

In context, with forty million vehicles on the UK’s cluttered roads, around 400 pedestrians are hit and killed by vehicles each year (some by police drivers); another 1,400 die in crashes. That’s quite a lot of ‘brilliant dads’ who don’t come home in the normal course of events. That this figure is one third what it was 40 years ago is  testament in part to the vigour with which police enforce the traffic regulations.

And it is salutary to remember that one hundred and forty-two people died in workplace accidents in 2014.

Statistically, police work is actually quite safe when compared with some other occupations; possibly due to assiduous training. The last British policeman killed in the line of duty was back in 2013, also struck by a getaway car. 2012 was an exceptional year, as a result of two WPCs in Manchester being lured into an ambush and shot to death by a local ‘face’ – a known thug who had decided to hand himself in over a previous murder and thought it would be a nice idea to take a couple of coppers down with him. Another PC was shot confronting an armed man while off-duty, and a fourth died of a heart attack while pursuing a suspect.

But there are 128 thousand people employed in the police force. It is the relative rarity of such incidents that makes them stand out.

Self-serving and pious statements by politicians about the extraordinary dangers of police work and lurid phrasemaking about ‘putting their lives on the line every night’ ignore the facts – with, on average, 30-plus deaths a year in police custody, it’s quite a lot more dangerous in Britain to be a criminal, or suspected of being one. Most people would say, that’s how it should be.

Of course, in America it’s more like a small war. Let’s not go there.

 

Postscriptum

After adding to the above yesterday with what I hoped was a more direct rationalisation of my semi-private concern at the management of the publicity surrounding this tragic case, as it seemed to set an uncomfortable legal precedent, there is news of a PC in a ‘serious’ condition, having been knifed in the stomach when called to an incident in North London. A 16-year-old boy is being questioned.

Of course, policing is often dangerous work. I merely commented that statistically, the fatality rate among police  in this country is thankfully very low. Nor do I believe that violent young punks without any sense of consequence or responsibility for their actions are a new phenomenon indicative of the breakdown of the social order: they have always existed.

Hanging and flogging them isn’t going to make any difference, we used to do that but they are ever with us. It is hardly perverted liberalism to suggest that there are reasons for their antisocial behaviour that ought to be addressed, while at the same time upholding the rule of law.

I do not take pleasure in the death of any individual; nor was I writing about any individual, excepting that this was a case that illustrated the way in which a precedent was being extended and nobody appeared to have noticed.

I have had a night to think about an abusive Comment received in relation to the original article. It is the first such Comment my blog has attracted in almost four years; possibly a sign of failure. The author, ‘Chris’, is a person obviously with little education, but direct and to the point. What I write may indeed be ‘fucking bollocks’, while it is indeed regrettable that I have never had the opportunity to die for my country, of whose overly sentimental laws and customs ‘Chris’ disapproves.

As a citizen (whose ancestors migrated here from northern Europe thirteen centuries ago) I still insist on the right to have a view, to express an opinion!

My blog is a personal ‘work in progress’ and subject to continual interventions by an editor I keep in my head. I have made one or two minor changes this morning. Something however that has also popped out of my head overnight is a worry that the country is becoming polarised between moral relativists and moral absolutists: people disposed to thinking-through complicated problems, as against people who merely react, sometimes with inarticulate violence, from pre-prepared positions.

I can see little difference between the ‘Chris’s and their fundamentalist counterparts in other cultures around the world, ISIS, the Moral Majority, who are once again in the ascendant. People who see everything in terms of black and white, who express violent thoughts against anyone they consider The Other – anyone that is, who looks or behaves or thinks differently from themselves. People with a visceral hatred of open discussion.

I suppose the difference is, for now, that one group is prepared to rampage through cities, indiscriminately shooting and bombing in the name of a religious ideal; while the others conduct their private wars by hurling inarticulate invective at people they fundamentally disagree with, in a public forum that guarantees their anonymity (for now). I am equally guilty of that, at times.

I suppose there has always been tension between the two camps, the ‘class war’ – but the internet has enabled a permissive discourse to evolve that is ratcheting up the social tension level, at a time of difficult global challenges to the postwar social consensus for which no-one appears to have any answers, other than more violence.

It’s not a good sign.

Clickety-click

I’m having trouble finding the words.

To be more accurate, I’m having trouble finding the letters with which to make the words.

That’s because they’ve been slowly wearing off the keys of my little four-years-old silver Asus lappy-toppy box-thing, and several purely black ones are leaving me guessing as to their alphanumerical or punctuational function. (It has occurred to me that there is some correlation to be drawn here between the vanishing keypad and my aging, fuddled brain, from which stuff is disappearing at an alarming rate. However, while stuck in the bathroom the other day, the names, faces, functions and disturbing habits of the entire teaching staff at my preparatory school came flooding back after fifty-five years…)

Take, for instance, the title of this piece: ‘Clickety-click’ (Bingo-callers’ argot for the number 66). Because Christmas is coming, there’s no ‘l’… (Type of humour to avoid. Ed.) No, seriously, when first set down, it emerged as ‘Ckickety-ckick’. That’s because ‘k’ falls next to the invisible ‘l’ and my typing-finger brain tends to go for the nearest key to the one I can’t find.

Other letters you may not get in the post this Autumn include ‘a’, ‘n’ and ‘e’, followed soon I anticipate by ‘s’, ‘m’ and ‘t’, whose traces are precarious.

You might think that, turning 66 today as I have, I should have taken a typing course by now, if it mattered. Or that, having been a journalist for several years and earned a meagre living, such as it was, almost entirely since then from the typed word, in various editorial roles, I should by now have succeeded in memorising which fingers need to go where.

My lightning reflexes however have always made it unnecessary to prestidigitate on the keyboard without needing to look where I’m going. I’m not much one for automatism. I can rapidly look at the keys, assimilate their positions, unscramble the three fingers you need for this sort of thing, and go for the letters with a fair degree of alacrity.

I’ve written millions of words this way, a penny a piece. But I do need to be able to see what I’m doing, where I’m going. And now I can’t, not entirely. I’ve become keenly long-sighted.

Muh gudfriend, Tony H. (it’s not a winsome literary abbreviation, I genuinely can’t remember his name) brought cake to choir practice, that he had baked himself, and the little group sang Happy Birthday, which happily had passed out of copyright last week. I emerged with my soup-strainer moustache, that I am having to grow to play a pirate in a pantomime, sticky with delicious chocolate fondant.

The practice was for a fundraiser at our local supermarket later in the morning, entitled ‘Buckets for Boobs’ – a clue being breast-cancer awareness. I stayed on after and joined in another choir I sometimes sing with for charity, happily for them as, while they were vastly over-represented in the ladyboobs department, only a tiny handful of men had turned out.

What is it with men, we’re such a handful?

Anyway, they sang Happy Birthday afterwards too, in public, which was a bit embarrassing, since I have tried to keep up a reputation for being surly and unhelpful in choir, apart from always knowing the start-note while the leader is off fumbling with some weird tuning device or another, refusing to believe me, and we were blocking the supermarket exit.

And along with the card I got from my old mum, and the four bottles of wine I plan to take to a party this evening, and the place on the weekend jazz workshop next month that I’ve thoughtfully given myself as a present, to go with the £3,000 guitar I gave myself last month as a precaution in case I forgot my birthday this month, that’s been about it.

Ckickety-ckick, sixty-six.

Eyes down for a full-house.

One damn thing after another

Is it a record, I wonder?

There will be those who have somehow escaped entry to the World of Work throughout their lives, and their forefathers afore them.

But among those actively pursuing work, I wonder, is it possibly some kind of record that I have been applying for jobs directly related to my qualifications and (senior level) experience for, now, seven and a half years, without reward?

The approach of my 66th birthday the day after tomorrow is clearly giving me pause. Is it perhaps time to give up scouring the Wanted ads on the Interweb thing; cease to investigate the back-end of The Lady; cancel my subscriptions to various job alert bulletins, and just accept that the Universe, my ‘Committee of Discarnate Entities’ who order my existence, is not going to come up with the goods any time now?

It seems a bit ridiculous still to have ambition at my age, an age when most people seem either to take up bungee-jumping in New Zealand or just lie down to die. I have friends who are white-haired, wrinkled, paunchy and sto0ped; short of breath, teeth, gall-bladders and marbles. Some of them are younger than me. Many are already dead. Yet I have barely begun to go grey and am still possessed of an upright, muscular physique, a razor-sharp intellect and catlike reflexes. (Okay, so occasionally I piss myself, but that’s under control. The sex isn’t too great either, luckily I don’t get asked too often.)

Technically (biologically and legally) qualified in years to be the great-great-grandfather of a fairly newborn infant, I am nevertheless not even yet a single-generational grandparent.

And I want to work. We are forever being admonished by those fucking Conservatives, everyone must work. Easier said than done, my unpleasant little friends.

So I keep applying, whenever the rather rare opportunities arise to go after the somewhat specialised role in which I envision myself. A role that slots-in to my projected lifestyle, my future planning, but which is too often reserved for a different sort of person, or persons – by which, I mean ‘Couples’ (and not in the sense that John Updike meant).

And I have a magnificent CV, which I’ve managed to sculpt down to a single, easily comprehended page of relevant fact. I’m sometimes told the employer is greatly excited by it. But then there is always some little damn thing, some blip or glitch, some negative factor of which I remain entirely unaware, something in the background that makes it impossible for them to see me.

Have they discovered my Special Branch dossier?

In seven and a half years, I have succeeded in obtaining precisely four interviews; only one of them through any of the seventeen agencies I have contacted during that time, that specialise in recruiting people I had imagined were like me (only not as good) to positions like the one I know I was born to fill.

I was, as I have bogld elsewhere, for six years and eight months, the manager, concierge, steward, housekeeper, gardener, caretaker – what you will – of a ‘stately home’, a large country house amid thirty acres of perilous woodland. It was a highly responsible position requiring extraordinary flexibility, bringing me into contact as it did, day and night, 365 days of the year, with a vast range of people whose often quite annoying needs were focussed on their obsessive relationship with the historic property.

(How would you react if someone turned up out of the blue, having travelled from Johannesburg, claiming to be the rightful owner of your employer’s house?) (Answer: he’s buried in the woods… ha-ha! No, not really.)

The demands of the job were pretty well infinite; involving me as they did in unblocking the Ladies toilets filled to the brim with used paper at a wedding, or cooking dinner for a party of Korean tourists who had taken a detour to Bath on the way and arrived at nearly midnight, or negotiating away three years’ worth of Business rates, saving half my salary; or chasing hooded intruders  out of the grounds at 2 a.m.

Early in 2008 a chance remark by the owner on one of his rare visits made it clear to me that my days were numbered. A reference to hiring a ‘proper manager’ for the prospective five-star hotel which the owner had become convinced would, if he could find the money to invest in a site-wide refurbishment, make his fortune, immediately triggered alarm-bells; and in April of that year, I started looking for a new job.

I’m still looking.

Which is not to say I haven’t worked since. Of course I have, I had another four years at the mansion with probable redundancy hanging over me. It’s just that I want another job like the one I had. Is that so unreasonable?

I just love looking after other people’s property, their period houses, their gardens, their guests. I love history, architecture, art and antiques. I love lovingly pruning shrubs. After half a lifetime of doing other stuff, desperate necessity drove me to take whatever work I could find – digging-out herbaceous borders, ironing people’s underpants, unblocking their gutters, polishing their Agas.

And I loved it!

All around the country and, indeed, across the Channel, are wealthy people with extra houses they rarely use, that need careful, knowledgeable looking after. And I’m just the man to do it. Why won’t they see? Well, in one case my rusty French let me down; in another, little Hunzi was thought to be a dog too far. In yet a third, I was caught on CCTV, taking a leak behind a tree after driving 70 miles on narrow roads….

Just this week, while the employer enthused that I was a really interesting candidate, the fact that I alerted them to a pre-existing unbreakable commitment two months from now that would involve me being away for a few days suddenly made it impossible for them to contemplate employing me, since they expected the person they were paying to work ’15 hours a week’ to be permanently on the premises.

 It’s like selling my house: after three years I still don’t have a buyer. They all tell the agent they really like it, but come on: ‘The sitting-room walls aren’t square’? ‘The bedroom is a bit too dark’? Like I said, there’s always one damn little thing, one irrational excuse after another, for saying no.

But the most usual response is silence. My applications are ignored altogether. Now, I don’t want to boast, but I’m a pretty substantial, credible sort of candidate. I’ve even been a member of the Institute of Directors. Partly brought up in a large country house with servants, I’ve managed pretty well every aspect of running one myself. I’ve got references. And you won’t find many applicants who were at school, albeit briefly, with the Prince of Wales. (Admit it, it’s a unique selling point!)

Okay, there are people I won’t consider working for. There is such a thing as too rich, too quick. Five houses, a superyacht… not for me, sorry. I won’t touch shooting estates, because what they do is obscene – as I once told the Duchess of Rutland in an increasingly difficult telephone conversation. I won’t work for Russians (too disordered), or Saudis (unprintable). I won’t wear a uniform, and I admit straight away that I’m no fan of Downton Abbey: I really wouldn’t fit well into a battery of curtseying housemaids and smarmy under-butlers.

Where I see myself is occupying the cottage on a small estate somewhere in rural Provence; fishing hornets out of the pool, plumping the deck cushions, sweeping leaves, collecting houseguests from the airport, arguing with plumbers, deterring Algerian door-to-door salesmen with pathetic trays of household products; getting to go to jazz festivals (they still have them there).

It’s perhaps the impossible dream, that I’ve been pursuing for far too long. It just isn’t happening. A point will come when it is really too late, but as far as my ambitious alter ego is concerned, that point hasn’t arrived yet.

Expect a CV any day now.

And don’t think up some fatuous excuse to say no. I really mean it.