The Denial Gene. On the Button: Myron Ebell and the BBC. Criminal Ecocide. Complaining is Not the British Way.

“Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools…”

The denial gene

We used to keep chickens on our small farm.

A city-boy, I noticed after a while that when we tried to herd the flock into their house for the night, there was always one that would go in the opposite direction from all the others.

That can be a useful evolutionary tactic if you think the other 19 of your fellow hens are clearly going to their deaths, shut up in their house overnight, that they’re all making the wrong decision collectively and you’re going to be safer outside on your own.

We could hear the foxes licking their lips for miles around.

You humans, too clever by half!

I’ve concluded from Comments people post everywhere that there’s a rogue ‘denial’ gene affecting maybe 1 in 5 humans who simply refuse to study the world, to observe, to listen to others, to read and properly evaluate evidence and use the logic and reason God gave them; who actively despise people who do those things as ‘elitist’, imagining everyone will be better off like them: stupid.

Of course, you might not have television and medicine and nukes and a cellphone, but stupid is better, right?

Because of your culture of flaunting your ignorance, you can never admit you’re being played for fools by people who earn more money in an hour than you will in six months.

There’s a reason why Mr Rex Tillerson was paid £100 thousand dollars A DAY for running the huge oil company Exxon-Mobil. They have known for many decades that burning fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – is a highly risky strategy; but have conspired to quash research into the alternatives because they like to make a lot of money, at which he was very good. Although millions of people in the non-developing world now lead more miserable and impoverished lives because of him and his shitty deals with corrupt states, at least we can keep on driving our SUVs to the supermarket.

Exxon is just one of many fossil-fuel companies that wards off demands for change by paying professional liars millions of dollars to make up stories undermining the overwhelming scientific consensus that the planet is heating to a dangerous degree; promoting the culture of ignorance among working folk, manipulating the media.

Blossom in DC, February

It’s only logical to assume that if we keep pumping billions of tonnes of warming gases every year into a finite atmosphere, it will warm the oceans and affect the weather; we have known it for over 100 years. All the science tells us is that what was predicted would happen is happening, only faster and harder. Data under constant revision are now showing the process of climate change – global warming – is going much faster than previously thought, and has not slowed down as the purveyors of highly selective interpretations have been telling us it has. There is no logical reason to think it might have, is there? Given that we are still polluting the atmosphere? Think!

How much of that money are they sharing with you, trolls? None, of course. You are as ass-poor as ever. Exploitation is, after all, their business and they are very good at it. They are playing you for fools, exploiting and encouraging the class of people who enjoy wallowing in ignorance, educational failures who imagine it’s cool to repeat simple stories that give them the comfort of feeling they’re superior to the many who can weigh-up the facts and come to rational conclusions we hope will save us from likely extinction within a generation.

Fine, if it’s only you pecking around in the dirt outside the hen house oblivious to your impending fate, feeling superior to the hens inside, too clever by half, safely shut up for the night.

I don’t personally give a shit what happens to you, the foxes can have you for all I care, you deserve it. I’m damned if you’re taking my children with you, you recrudescent Trumpish baboons, merely to celebrate your apathy, your ignorance and your fear of people who can actually think.

But, now your infantile trolling has official blessing, and we are losing hope.

x

“In an interview on BBC Radio 4 in 2005, Ebell said that the UK’s Chief Scientist David King was “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change”. An early day motion deploring “in the strongest possible terms” Ebell’s “unfounded and insulting criticism” was raised in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, and was signed by 66 Members of Parliament.” – Wikipedia

On the button: Myron Ebell and the BBC

God knows, I have been rude enough about the BBC’s unquestioning and uncritical acceptance of Donald J Trump as some kind of normal president, and the excessively ‘diplomatic’ reporting of their chief diplomatic correspondent in Washington, John Supine.

Radio 4’s increasingly bland and poorly researched presenter-fest, the Today programme, this morning (7 June) gave extensive coverage to Mr Trump’s imminent meeting with Vladimir Putin ‘for the first time’ at the foul-smelling G20 summit in Hamburg, and attempted a feeble analysis of his speech in Poland yesterday somehow without once mentioning the phrase ‘white nationalism’, or wondering how he managed to appear so coherent.

(Shielded behind bullet-proof glass, with two autocue devices, a bussed-in ‘cheering crowd’ and a speech 98% cleverly written by Steve Bannon for the benefit of East European white nationalists keen to receive the coded neo-Crusader rhetoric, is how.)

Between eight o’clock and nine o’clock I heard North Korea mentioned only once. No guest referred to the worrying co-operation between Russia and China over this crucial issue; no guest referred to the increasing provocations by the US Navy in the South China Sea and around the coast of North Korea, or the installation of missiles in South Korea, pointing north.

One guest, we forget who, did mention sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine thing, stating that they were being ‘raised’. No guest however referred to the Russian ‘rest camps’ on Long Island and in Maryland, closed down as rats’ nests of spies by President Obama, which Mr Trump has proposed allowing to reopen.

Certainly, no-one queried what or whose strategy lies behind Mr Trump’s new anti-Russian rhetoric increasingly contrasted with his previous support for the Putin regime; or on the likely outcome of FBI and Congressional investigations into Trump’s business goings-on, from which he has not yet divested, as a conduit for Russian and Ukrainian ‘dark money’.

Finally raising the subject of Mr Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climate change, citing damage to US business interests, at ten to nine the 73-year-old veteran presenter John Humphrys introduced as a spokesman on the environment for the President’s advisory team, one Myron Ebell: a ‘climate-change skeptic’.

Mr Ebell is rather more than that, to say the least, as to be a skeptic one needs to start with some knowledge of the subject. But he is no stranger to Radio 4:

Ebell has been given extensive media coverage, frequently cited or interviewed by journalists in a way that presents a false balance by giving Ebell’s lay views equal weight with those of expert climatologists, and thus misrepresents the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change. – Wikipedia

Mr Ebell is not a climate scientist, nor indeed any other kind of scientist. He is a PR bunco artist from the deepest layers of the Washington ‘swamp’ of lobbyists, who has made a very nice living from lying publicly about the effects of continuing to burn coal, oil and gas. Corporations who have paid Mr Ebell very large fees to spread false stories about global warming ‘slowing down’, a ‘little ice age’, etc., and to do whatever he could to undermine public trust in science and promote the relentless poisoning for vast financial gain of land, sea and oceans include Exxon-Mobil, Dow Chemical and Murray Energy.

Mr Ebell has been connected with, or responsible for setting up, numerous imposing-sounding lobby groups, false-front policy ‘institutes’ working, for instance, against protections for wildlife, opposing the work of the Environmental Protection Agency. Responsible for the insulting pro-carbon slogan ‘They call it pollution, we call it life’, he has also lobbied intensively on behalf of the tobacco companies to prove that smoking is a healthy pursuit.

Almost every one of the vile causes this greedy little shit has espoused on behalf of his paymasters has been fabulously successful, inasmuch as they have provided inspiration for the bulk of the Trump administration’s pro-business policies and have Ebell’s bloodstained fingerprints all over them. It is so easy to press the buttons of dumbfuck Republican supporters desperate to validate their counterfactual ignorance and suspicion of the ‘authorities’.

What this lying creep was doing on the Today programme this morning, I have no idea. I had to switch it off, having previously learned that mental health services in the NHS are overstretched already.

Clearly the editors hadn’t a clue either, as they must have been unaware of the 2005 appearance cited above, that caused such a furore in Parliament, and could not be arsed to spend two minutes doing a background check on this douchebag or to obtain a balancing viewpoint before inviting him to squirt his pus all over the British public – again.

Please write in and complain to the BBC Board, for the sake of the earth.

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“He believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions and billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system and there will be no consequences to follow.”

Criminal ecocide

As we know, Mr Trump’s strange gameplan for governance has followed a two-track strategy.

One, fill as few middle-to-high-ranking posts as he can, making the administration of government agencies very difficult if not impossible, while at the same time blocking the publication of inconvenient scientific research; and two, put in as heads of departments only people to whom he owes favours, or his own family, inexperienced administrators with no qualifications in the field: people who are fully committed to sabotaging the normal administrative functions of government.

Why, almost anyone would imagine he was deliberately trying to bring down the State.

Why has Mr Trump gone along with this idea that destroying the jobs of people who make the country function safely is an efficient solution to what was probably a genuine problem of bureaucratic inertia? He has no policy to replace the existing system: it is a Year Zero plan, a nihilistic political philosophy that plays to his dumbfuck supporters but risks pulling the country down into a very scary place.

“Thanks for the job Mister President, I won’t let Exxon down.”

Perhaps mindful of his own incompetence in the environmental field, but well-briefed by ‘experts’ working for his paymasters at Koch Industries, Hamm, Devon and Murray Energies, the heavily compensated apologist Mr Scott Pruitt, feral-clown head of the Environment ‘Protection’ Agency, for instance, has just announced a plan Mr Trump would like.

He proposes to spend public funds on finding enough dissenting ‘scientists’ to form a committee to formally challenge the 98.5% of real scientists around the world, experts in many fields whose funding or university tenure does not depend on energy company blackmail, to ‘prove’ that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas – denying a thoroughly researched principle that has been fully and widely known since 1889.

The Director has already declined to refill 57 of the 68 positions on the scientific advisory group that reviews genuine EPA research, and tried to lean on the chairwoman, Dr. Deborah Swackhamer when she was due to give evidence to a Congressional committee last month. to get her to say nothing about the probable effects of his destructive behavior.

Happily, an appellate court has struck down his plan to abandon controls due to come into force shortly on monitoring and reducing methane emissions from drilling and fracking operations, which are of an alarmingly high order; although it looks certain the ruling will be overturned by a Republican-packed Supreme Court, whose casting vote, so-called ‘Justice’ Gorsuch, has never once in his well-funded career on the bench ruled against a corporation.

Mr Pruitt is very probably mad, or has been driven mad by the weight of money shovelled down his fat gullet by vastly wealthy corporate interests. He is, to put it bluntly, a corrupted official, undeniably so according to the contents of many of the nine thousand of his work e-mails that finally surfaced owing to repeated Freedom of Information requests from environmental campaigners, just days after his appointment was hastily confirmed.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/22/scott-pruitt-emails-oklahoma-fossil-fuels-koch-brothers

There is already a cottage industry of climate-change denial, led by lunatics like ‘Lord’ Nigel Lawson, the tendentious 103-year-old former British chancellor from the bygone Thatcher era, a ghoul who won’t lie down, whose entire knowledge of atmospherics is confined to expensive cigar smoke-filled rooms. Showing great cunning (or profound stupidity) Mr Pruitt does not argue that the climate is not changing, in ways ‘we don’t yet fully understand’. He merely refuses with ever-increasing stubbornness to accept that there is an overlying problem with burning fossil fuels of the kind his paymasters are in a new frenzy of ruthlessly exploiting, greenlighted by that other Nobel chemistry laureate, Donald Trump.

Pruitt, as Attorney General of Arkansas an enthusiastic executioner of black people using whatever materials came to hand, believes it is perfectly possible to go on pumping billions upon billions of tonnes of poisonous and heat-retaining, long-lasting gaseous by-products from combusting carbonaceous fossil fuels year-on-year for two hundred years into a delicately balanced, complex – and above all finite atmospheric system, and there will be no consequences to follow.

Or maybe he just believes in getting rich, it’s hard to tell.

A difficult point to make.

It’s kind of a difficult point to make at a time when Arizona is on fire and New York State is underwater. And, yes, when people are dying in heatwaves, floods and landslides all around the world, right now. Vast areas of central and southern Europe, central America, Russia, India and China are all currently stricken with a deadly combination of record heatwaves and record pre-monsoon rainfall. Methane is erupting from a warming Siberian tundra where wildfires are raging, contributing further to the CO2 overload in the atmosphere.

Yes, other factors are involved. Extreme events have and do occur naturally, of course they do, that’s the law of averages; but not all at the same time in so many places, within the same bands of latitude and with the increasing frequency and intensity we are now experiencing. Natural carbon ‘sinks’ kept the climate in balance until we started burning coal, and then oil, overwhelming the ability of the regulator to maintain a breathable atmosphere within habitable temperature zones. The planet has been warming detectably for the past 100 years but is now at a tipping point – many tipping points – beyond which it is difficult to see a way back; and which, researchers warn, will produce more abrupt and economically challenging changes still.

The energy industry, we know, has been well aware of the risks for decades and was beginning to accept that it needed to be part of the solution, not the problem – until last year. Since when, the entire tenor of the gerrymandered and Russian-sponsored Trump administration has been to let rip and to hell with the consequences – just as long as ‘America’ (meaning Republican politicians and their funders) makes a huge amount of money out of us before we all die. How long the courts can defy them, we don’t know.

It is, of course, beyond insanity; beyond understanding, that supposed human beings can act like this.

It’s criminal ecocide; a game of ‘chicken’ with only one outcome.

 

Weather news

The northern jetstream has broken up into several pieces (Paul Beckwith – Ottawa U., 7 July).

Six dead, 20 missing is the toll so far in an unprecedented storm over the northern part of Japan’s southernmost island, Kyushu, 5 July centred on the city of Nagasaki. Dozens of properties have been washed away in floods and landslides. 500 mm – 2 feet – of rain fell in just 12 hours.

56 people are dead after extensive flooding hit Guangxi province in China causing rivers to rise to never previously recorded levels. Over a million people have been evacuated. In neighbouring Hunan province another 1.4 million have been evacuated. Thirty-five people are believed dead. In Assam, India, 20 dead in the past three days. Four million people have had to find higher ground.

California is braced for another weekend of record heat. The temperature hit 122 deg. F., 50 C. in Palm Springs yesterday. Parts of Ulyanovsk in Russia are under 2-3 feet of water.

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“Civilians escaping right now speak of horrific experiences. They have been caught between aerial bombardment, artillery, snipers and car bombs. They live in fear; they hide in their homes without food or water … In Raqqa, too, hundreds of thousands of people are caught in the crossfire, with casualty numbers rising as a result of airstrikes as well as sniper fire and brutal executions carried out by the jihadists to intimidate those still trapped in the city.” Washington Post, 05 July.

Complaining is not the British way

Comparisons, as I keep saying to little effect, are odious.

None of us would wish to have been caught up in the dreadful fire that engulfed and gutted the Grenfell tower-block in west London three weeks ago. The shocked and in many cases destitute residents who did manage to get out, some 158 individuals and families, have lost everything. Many will have been traumatised by the sights and sounds of those who perished on the upper floors signalling for help that never came.

No way out for thousands.

But they are here, and they are safe. While Britain has disgracefully pulled up the drawbridge against the people of Mosul and Raqqa and the rest of Syria and other war-ravaged countries in the region, from where there is no escape; for whose traumatized people there is no relief. None of us would wish to be caught up in that either.

There has rightly been criticism of the inadequacy of the immediate response by the local authority to the social problems created by the fire. Heads have already rolled, but it was not surprising: the numbers and quality of staffing in most local authorities have been in decline for years, although Kensington and Chelsea is said to have cash reserves approaching a billion pounds.

My mother lived in the Royal Borough – indeed, your Uncle Bogler too was born and lived there many years ago.

At the age of 92, after 52 years in the same flat, new landlords took over. Rosie found herself trapped by infirmity and lack of money unable to go anywhere else, a rent-protected tenant alone on the top floor of an otherwise empty building she could not have escaped from in an emergency. Flats in the next-door building were for sale at £12 million each.

We pleaded less than a year ago with the council to rehouse her in sheltered accommodation, only to be told there was nowhere and, anyway, until she was actually evicted and on the street they were not legally obliged to help. She died in December.

Confronted by the immediate chaos of several hundred men, women and children needing immediate rehousing and other support, some of whom spoke little English and were fearful of the immigration authorities, or who may well have lost their jobs by now and moved away, I don’t suppose the council much appreciated the rash promise made by the prime minister, Theresa May, who was herself being severely chastized for her impersonal response to the disaster, of a ‘permanent home nearby within three weeks’, with the government possibly, maybe, someday to pick up the bill.

I don’t suppose it has penetrated through her filter-bubble that there is a grave housing crisis in London, partly brought about by the city’s insatiable demand for cheap migrant labour; and partly by the foreign money-laundering transactions that have been grossly inflating property prices for years, that successive administrations have been happy to turn a blind eye to despite it leaving tens of thousands of private properties unoccupied.

Where were these people to go? Seems a pretty fair question. In fact, it’s a bit miraculous that 139 family units have already been offered housing they are too picky to take.

Yes, look.

I fear there’s going to be a backlash any minute now, and it won’t be pretty.

Because to date, only 14 out of 139 households who have already been offered alternative accommodation have accepted the arrangement. The  others are refusing to move out of their hotel rooms and community halls, complaining that the council has failed to consult them properly about their needs.

I have no doubt their reasons are convincing – to them. Too big, too small, too high up, only temporary, the wrong area… One family were offered a flat in a block in another borough that’s due to be demolished next year and turned it down because they wanted a permanent home, another is on the radio complaining about the forms, the flat he’s been offered is 15 minutes away, too far, he doesn’t like the area – and only two bedrooms (it’s just him and his daughter).

“I can hear … shock-hacks like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills”

Meanwhile the rest of the country is struggling with a major housing shortage, ever-rising rents – and over 600 thousand families, many with children, can’t find permanent homes at all or are forced to live many miles away from their low-paid jobs. Gentrification in London continues to push the low-paid out to the margins, increasing their travel costs.

At the mercy of private landlords, most people have no choice where and in what conditions they live.

The list of complaints of the Grenfell refuseniks may be just, their plight genuine, but that is not how it will play to the majority of people throughout the country. I can hear already the scratchy little noise of shock-hack columnists like Katie Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn sharpening their quills and dipping them in strychnine.

It sounds too much like ingratitude, stemming from a sense of entitlement that has been growing among not only the Grenfell Tower survivors, but among the residents of buildings around, the adjacent low-rise Grenfell Walk for instance, that has had to be evacuated because the joint heating no longer works, egged-on by political protestors and the media.

Yes, people will say, you had a terrible experience and you needed help. You’re being offered help, people are doing their best to help you in trying circumstances, large sums of money have been raised, clothing supplied, but nothing we do seems good enough for you.

Your endless complaining is not the British way.

A media storm started, for instance, when one surviving resident found that rent had accidentally been debited from her account a week after the fire, when the authority was supposed to have suspended payment of all Grenfell rents.

Well, good Lord, annoying I know but worse happens to the rest of us every day, struggling with miscalculated utility bills and lousy transportation, waiting three weeks just to see our GP, and all you had to do was point out the obvious mistake for it to be immediately rectified with apologies. Why make so much fuss, so publicly?

The sense must by now be growing in the country that the survivors have grown an exaggerated sense of entitlement, encouraged by media and politicians’ handwringing over social divisions and inequality.

It’s not their fault they’ve been caught up in a national debate that was long overdue and have become pawns in other people’s games; or that they’ve been blinded by the glare of the media spotlight.

It just looks like some of them are taking advantage, possibly for the first time in their lives.

 

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How long, o Lord, how long?

sessions

Je recuse

It’s Christmas time once more again

Joy! My new little laptop thing has arrived.

I have little idea of how to use it, I have never known what the f-keys do, for instance, but I plugged it in anyway and it’s sitting there, configuring Windows updates to its heart’s content. In fact I think it may even have connected wirelessly already to muh BT hub, as it’s got a picture now on the screen, one of those annoying pictures Windows 10 puts up, asking if you’d like another one the same or something different? Or maybe you’d just like to use the computer?

Christ, Americans.

Oh, no. I think it just does that. It wants a security ‘key’. Er….

It was delivered from Laptopsdirect at 09.30 prompt on the promised day by an admirably brisk and efficient young man with a van, from a courier firm I haven’t heard of before, DX. I expect they’re a rebrand of some formerly semi-useless American operation, TNT or something, one of those whose reputations weren’t of the best.

But it seems to have worked, and it means Hunzi gets his walk at the normal time – I feared having to wait in all-day, as one does with UPS, only to discover they actually came the previous day and left it who-knows where.

After ringing the bell, the courier waited politely for me to get from my studio to the door, which takes about 90 seconds if you don’t fall over a dog, so I didn’t have to sprint down the garden path to accost him as he was climbing back into the van to rush on to the next delivery, for which he would be paid 45p or something and nothing for the journey time or his van rental, distressing tales we read about so often nowadays.

I asked him about it, and he smiled and said he was actually reasonably well-paid for his labours.

I may apply for a job.

But now I’m looking at the battered remains of this, muh previous laptop, with wistful nostalgia.

I’m still using it, as you can see, but it’s coming time to bid goodbye. The lid part has disintegrated: the left hinge, broken, with its visible wires and other gubbins; the screen, free-floating between the detached sandwiching halves; the worn-out keys, E, T, C… some others I don’t recognise; the piece of thick cardboard I had to gaffer-tape over the trackpad to stop the cursor flying about everywhere when I’m typing and using a mouse. (Asus warning: you can’t cut out the trackpad, there’s no driver for it.)

And at last I can shut it down – it’s been left on for weeks because it’s been increasingly reluctant to wake up, and I fear one morning, like myself hopefully,  it may simply not.

But the new m’chine, well. Flimsy. A rattly, plasticky keyboard, that feels it might not long survive the pounding I shall undoubtedly give it, as long as the dumb-cunt old lesbian Trump is in office, lying her fat orange pumpkin head off.

The thing I can’t figure out is how to transfer stuff over in bulk. Most of what I do is write these endless, obsessive pieces using WordPress, which is a kind of cloudstore, so the data is out there somewhere for all eternity in a bunker under Arizona or Kyrzgystan, along with every embarrassing first and hundredth draft, and I don’t need to worry about it. Ditto G-mails galore, in the parallel Google universe; and the webthings I visit, obviously: YouTube and so on will still be accessible.

So there’s no shortage of things to do and see, once it’s connected to the i-net. And has a printer driver.

But what to do with my photos, that I don’t really want, most of them; the many hundreds of docs saved in Word? I purchased along with the laptop a key to Office 365, that’s arrived too, and instructions for how to key it. But you need to be online first. I’m afraid now of making mistakes and the whole thing is blown.

Then there’s Firefox and Chrome, with all my Bookmarks. How do I hang on to those? Windows 10, Microsoft, hates Chrome and clearly doesn’t want me downloading it, or Firefox come to that. And most of all, the 60 hours of music files, copied from my extensive collection of mainly disappointing jazz CDs? How do I copy those across? (Actually, I bought a tablet specifically to handle all my musical requirements, but I don’t know how that works either. Somebody shoot me now.) The resident media player will play, and very well — but there’s no ripping CDs on it, or organising libraries. What’s it for, one wonders?

And then there are the dozens of passwords to various needed websites that are going to have to be reset, none of which I can remember. I usually have to reset them once a week anyway as the ‘Remember me’ tickboxes never work. They’re all based on jazz musicians, but there are hundreds of those and I’ve lost the bit of paper I’ve been writing them down on. I finally burst into tears trying to reset my Gmail account. Change one password in Google platforms, and you have to change them all. They know perfectly well who I am.

Alas, the sockets on the new laptop are on the wrong side and upside-down for all my cabling – I didn’t think of that, but now I’m going to have to reverse all the plugging.

Sigh.

Look! My new laptop has got various ‘apps’ as we must now learn to call whatever they were before, preloaded on it! Joy. I just clicked on a letter ‘A’ in the taskbar, and boringly Amazon has popped up, begging me to ‘love’ it. You can’t ‘love’ Amazon, nobody can, they treat their employees like dirt; although it’s dashed useful, especially if you live where I do and love getting presents in the mail.

No, Amazon is a horrid, impersonal thing that keeps suggesting stuff to order that has no relevance to your life, on the basis of a brute and cretinous algorithm that can’t understand how no-one is going to buy more than one saxophone in any given month. And keeps trying to sell you onto their Prime service, at an eyewatering price, just so you can be treated a little more servilely and enjoy more crap TV with Jeremy Klaxon. It’s already looking quite dated, frankly. Dated and cumbersome.

Stuff it.

So with the lad away I’m thinking about renting a teenager, or someone with a worse case of Asperger’s than my own, rank body odour is always a good sign, to come in and sort it. Only looking around, I can see my studio needs a good clean-up first.

In fact, the whole house needs spring-cleaning, it’s a tip. I’ve given up, quite honestly. No-one visits, no-one comes to buy it. The prostate – I had another night of straining every ten minutes to pee yesterday, starting at four a.m., with consequent blow-back and leakage – and now I’ve got this hiatus hernia problem that’s giving me nightmares as well as indigestion.

It’s not promising.

I dreamed last night that I was struggling on my own to keep an enormous exam-room full of comprehensive-school pupils quiet and on-message. (I am actually a part-time invigilator, of undergraduate exams thank God, not kidz.)

Ranging in ages from about 12 at the front to about 35 at the back – there were even some teachers there too who were becoming increasingly noisy and insolent. They were all supposedly  sitting a very basic-level math exam by way of an infinite series of multiple-choice questions, but refused to stop talking and laughing with one another and texting their mates. After trying dire warnings, expulsions, disqualifications, confiscations and futile threats of violence, including tearing-up their papers, I ended up pathetically telephoning the headmaster; and while waiting seemingly forever for him to arrive, improvised an interminable speech about taking responsibility for one’s life.

Of course, no-one took the slightest bit of notice.

Not even, it seems, me.

“Ah did naht have intracourse with that Ambassador.”

Inside the Whitehall echo-chamber

In reply to a question from the BBC about school pupils being forced to go on retaking Maths and English GCSE until they get at least a Grade C, some of them well into their nineties, and wasn’t it likely they had other skills that could be encouraged, more useful skills; and perhaps desirable that they should benefit from more specialised training that might allow them to progress in their chosen careers, the Department for Obfuscation replied it was:

“developing credible, high-quality options for students through reforming Functional Skills qualifications in maths and English, to make sure that they deliver the knowledge and skills that employers need, and consequently have credibility and prestige in the jobs market”.

Yes Minister!’s Sir Humphrey is alive and well.

This lapidary statement ignores the quite interesting statistic that 80% of the CEOs of Footsie 100 companies left school at 16, or at best have no qualifications past A-level. Success in business has nothing to do with academic achievement.

A minimum Grade C is obviously required in BLB  (Barely Literate Bullshit) to become a cypher in the Education Department’s underworked press office. I require no qualifications at all to spot that what the DoE is saying is it costs less to teach open subjects badly than to provide specialised technical courses in FE colleges.

I don’t expect my garage mechanic to have a degree in Literature, but you never know.

 

“What hath night to do with sleep?” – John Milton, Paradise Lost

The first sign that something was up was the number 140 scrawled in white paint on the pavement outside my front gate.

Then, the crumpled note last Friday, shoved through the letterflap. Our road was to be closed from 18.00 pm to 06.00 am, for FIVE NIGHTS, starting Monday. If we had any queries, here was a number to ring.

I don’t suppose anyone will answer it and if they do, so what? They don’t give a fuck. You certainly don’t get an offer of hotel accommodation.

Deep resurfacing work.

It meant that I might not be able to park within half a mile of my house for a week, if I wanted to go out in the evenings. Which I do – choir on Tuesday (19.15 to 22.00). Drama rehearsal Thursday (19.00 to 21.30). And what if I run out of milk? Wine?  It would have vindicated my resolve to sell the car, had I thought to do so when the idea first occurred to me, several weeks ago. Now I’m stuck with it, as diesels have replaced feral children, Romanian immigrants, High Court judges and devil dogs as the bogeys of choice for the insane redtop blatts.

Outside as I write, the jarring sounds of heavy machinery, 12-litre engines whining: massive gritter lorries and grit pumps and hoppers and scrapers and road-drills and generators and tarmacadam firer-uppers whining and rumbling in the street, reversing-vehicle warnings bleeping just 20 feet from my bedroom window – all night long.

It makes a change from speeding cars and huge double-decker, double-trailer slaughter waggons hauling silently shivering sheep by the thousand through the dark to the county abbatoirs, from dusk ’til dawn. But it’s not much better.

They let me through, after I drove around five miles to avoid the Road Closed barrier at the end of the street, only to encounter another barrier at the other end of the designated stretch – my little house exactly halfway between. A nice young man waved me on – they’ve only just begun. And along the pavement, stretched right across my front gate, a security barrier tape.

Considerate.

Luckily I still cut an athletic figure, I’m not some pointless disabled person in a wheelchair. I can still vault a tape. And Hunzi can go underneath. What the couple next door with the five-year-old kid will do, who cares?

I may get out in the day, I don’t know. I certainly won’t get back tomorrow night, should I venture out. Which I may not do if I’ve had no sleep. Nobody will. There are possibly 150 of us living here in the village, trapped in our homes by roadworks and the arrogance of the fuckwit planners to whom our freedom to come and go means nothing.

Why the road needs resurfacing every three or four years is a question I don’t suppose anyone will answer.

So I will.

It’s because the Highways Agency, the Local Authority and the Police are all a bunch of fucking useless retards and budget-cuts-blaming cunts who do FUCK-ALL about the increasing volume of speeding tanker-drivers, Cathedral City cheese lorries and other heavy traffic pounding the cheaply surfaced stretch of the main road that links this T-junction coastal town through our village with the motorway system and the giant distribution depots of the English Midlands.

(Sorry to have a go, but it’s been years.)

A proposal to build a southern bypass was aborted in the 1990s, after some self-interested landowner dumped an entire industrial estate atop the proposed route, which then had to contend unpromisingly with the steep flank of a valley. No-one has had the foresight to create an out-of-town distribution depot to bring goods in by rail; although the perfect site exists. So there is only the one access road for all the commercial and holiday traffic funneled into the town, past my front door.

Ironically, I’ve just been watching a Panorama documentary about how, thanks to iPads and TV, busy working parents and obesity, kids aren’t getting enough sleep to let their brains develop properly. Not sure I am either, what with the old prostate an’ all. In an intriguing experiment, A. Doctor forced the dimwits to take the childrens’ iThings away an hour before bedtime, and hey presto! In a week their cognitive abilities improved by 60%.

From my perspective, at my advanced age I’d like to get enough sleep just to be allowed to die in peace.

Fat chance.

So I’m now on my twelfth whisky of the evening, counted in measures, which I don’t, and shall probably have to sleep in the spare room, which has the advantage of being at the back. Nor am I in the habit of swinging Katz, my tubby cat. Just as well in the spare room, as you couldn’t.

I only hope my grades don’t suffer.

“Look, guys, I twist my ear and a tongue comes out. How cool is that?”

Please don’t sell me another saxophone!

“…this is a measure designed to make Britain more dangerous, more hostile, more insular and xenophobic: the really shit side of Brexit”

‘I’ve got a little list’ (G&S, The Mikado)

The ghastly Amber Rudd, whose business past makes her look like Trump’s twisted sister, says she doesn’t want to be thought of as ‘racist’ for apparently proposing – she’s the new Home Secretary, by the way – that firms should be forced to provide the Home Office with details of all ‘foreign’, i.e. non-British workers.

She only wants to make sure native British nationals are getting a fair crack of the whip when it comes to getting jobs.

Darling, the word is not racist, it’s fascist.

You can safely leave the way the lists are used to the racists. Maybe obliging the  interlopers with their unacceptable foreign accents to wear yellow armbands outdoors, having G4S paint their front doors red, might help?

Because lists can be harmful to health.

Coming on top of the startling news that half a billion Yahoo! email subscribers’ accounts were probably hacked by Russians five years ago, is the news that, in 2015, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, caved in to pressure from the National Security Administration and secretly had tracking software planted so the spooks could read everyone’s messages, scanning them for keywords, forever.

What, words like ‘go’, ‘fuck’, and ‘yourselves’?

Even Mayer’s internal security people weren’t in the loop, only discovering the ruse when they thought there had been another hack – which there had been, only it was their own CEO and the State security people quietly doing the hacking. The head security guy quit, proving there is still some honour among thieves.

And I’m unsubscribing from Yahoo!, not because I support terrorism, drug-running and organized crime, I don’t, but because I don’t like being lied to and implicitly accused by some acned baboon in a bunker of crimes I haven’t committed and don’t intend to commit. I signed for a Yahoo! account in the delusional belief that my privacy was protected, at least to some extent.

Maybe I didn’t read the bit in the contract labelled ‘Privacy’ closely enough, and just assumed there was some?

Let me try to explain where uhm cumin’ frum.

It was my birthday yesterday. I have to buy my own presents these days, so on a whim I’d bought myself a saxophone, a cute little curved soprano sax, which I’ve privately pledged to learn to play well enough to get up on stage by the time of my next jazz week in France. A strange idea, nonetheless at my age you need something to keep dragging you forwards.

I spent a few days trawling the wires for a nice one at a just-affordable price. I found one. Then I bought it. Yes, I really did! And look, it’s here; and I’m a bit puzzled, because it’s got more little keys than I’ve got fingers, but I’ll persevere.

Anyway, now, whenever I go on websites, there are pop-up ads from stores trying to sell me more saxophones….

How many saxophones do those marketing cretins with their stupid bots think anyone might want to buy in an average month?

Don’t you think this invasive inquisition into our purchasing habits has gone far enough? I spent 15 years in advertising as a writer and creative director, I get the principle of ‘relationship marketing’, I just want to be able to choose my relations. As well as dead celebrities, 2016 seems to have become the year of stupid.

Learning to play the little saxophone was my little secret, something private, a bonkers idea that I wanted to keep to myself. Now some speccy little drone in Langley, Va. knows I’m a complete dweeb and I will never be allowed to access any information without some lunatic popping-up, trying to sell me another saxophone.

Thanks, Amazon.

More seriously, about eight years ago my son, who is a military specialist now doing a high-powered MA, made me buy him a book for his birthday – he was 15 and didn’t have an Amazon account.

‘The Sniper’s Manual’ is not really the kind of reading I go in for, to be honest. I’m more a Saturday Guardian man. But for months and years afterwards it stayed on my Recently Viewed list, along with a whole bunch of suggestions for the Anarchist Cookbook and suchlike.

What is that going to look like when someone starts ferreting around because they don’t like me calling the Home Secretary a fascist? And under my bed in plastic boxes is stored two-thirds of the boy’s college research and private reading around military history and guerrilla warfare for the past ten years….

Should I just turn myself in, plead guilty and get it over with? Do they let you have saxophones piling up in a gaol cell?

Lists.

Putting anyone on a database nowadays makes them vulnerable to abuse and persecution. Facebook, Yahoo!, Cloud accounts, nowhere is secure. As society increasingly coagulates into small, increasingly hostile, sometimes threatening special interest groups, ‘foreigners’ are high on the list of people it’s okay to beat up in the street.

Indeed, if you live in Pakistan, or Bangladesh, and you think you have the space to discuss ideas about the sharia State, well, sorry – we’re going to send a mob round to hack you and your family to pieces. Don’t worry, there’s a better life on the Other Side, where you’ll have all Eternity to repent your apostasy.

Do we seriously imagine our fellow nationals are so polite, so civilized, there aren’t thousands of us perfectly willing under the right circumstances, given permission, to become informers, militiamen, torturers – hangmen?

And where is the evidence that British people who deserve them can’t get jobs in industry because foreigners are taking them all? While it may be true at the lower end of the skills range, where we find Polish graduates doing manual labour or slinging lattes in Costa, no British graduate would take a labouring job – although the Irish used to, and we called them Paddy and ‘thick’, but they made their money and built their bungalows.

I’ve bogld endlessly about this, that immigration of workers is totally subject to the normal law of supply and demand. If there aren’t the jobs, they won’t come. Now, however, although there are the jobs, who’d come, if they knew they were being exposed to the more rancid side of the native British character?

And, look. The pound is trading today at $1.18, its lowest since the 1960s. It’s forecast to drop to $1.10 by the end of the year; and to parity with the Euro. So your average European can’t make anything extra here, converting the £s s/he earns doing a crap job back into €s for the folks back home. Again, there’s no incentive to migrate.

So this is a measure designed to make Britain more dangerous, more hostile, more insular and xenophobic: the really shit side of Brexit, licensing thugs and racists to decide our industrial and social policy – keeping the scumbag editors of Wapping in gloating headlines. While at the same time, the economics are already sorting out the problem, if there is a problem, which I do not believe there is.

There’s no security in databases, and Rudd needs to know that. Even without breaches of data security – will there be addresses, too? Other personal data? – lists lead to quotas; quotas lead to the Othering of the innocent; Othering leads to breaking down doors, confiscation of property; camps, gas, dogs, bullets in the back of the head.

Please don’t tell me this is Britain and that’s absurd. We interned foreigners in 1939, we can do it again. There are plenty of people who would. Look at the Black & Tans in Ireland in the 1920s. I never heard a bad word about Syria, and how hospitable its people are, until the flayed corpses of students started turning up on rubbish dumps with their eyes gouged out.

As for students, thanks to Ruddism it’s going to be much harder for them to study here in future. So they won’t come, the universities will have to charge the natives more, and a whole generation of talent will be lost to us. I have always wondered why, having conferred degrees upon these bright young people, we don’t make every effort to keep them in Britain. It seems a total waste to send them packing as soon as we’ve relieved them of their £18,000 a year, plus accommodation costs, just to avoid cretinous headlines in the Daily Mail.

And what if Rudd decides a company has too many foreign workers? Do we employ G4S goons to round them up and send them home? Do we dragoon unsuitable candidates, the long-term unemployables, from the nearest JobCentrePlus to go in and take over their desks?

What’s that going to do to the businesses, that’ve spent time and money putting these people in place, employing them only because they’re better qualified or more willing to work than teenage British baboons with hopeless degrees in nail-science through the medium of feminist slavery?

No, Amber, you’re not racist. Not at all.

You’re just deeply worrying.

 

Home and Away

Coming immediately on top of the hoo-ha over the Home Office proposal to list all the foreign workers in the UK (Amber Rudd’s own brother has expressed concern), the Foreign Office is now frantically backtracking over reports that it has banned the London School of Economics from employing any of its non-British academics to work on research or consultancy programmes relating to the Brexit negotiations, on grounds of ‘national security’.

There is not a lot of difference, as far as I can see, between this and the banning of Jewish academics from working in German universities in the 1930s. But maybe as Amber has said, and Boris’ civil servants are saying, ‘we didn’t mean it like that!’

 

Has Donald finally Trumped himself?

There’s not a lot you can say, is there, to the latest revelations about Trump’s breathtakingly insouciant attitude towards women, power and sex.

His simple idea that if you feel like having sex with a woman, any woman, and you are powerful enough, all you have to do is ‘grab her pussy’ and she will put out for you, has not gone down well with senior Republicans who, up to now, have been quite happy to ignore a vast wealth of Donald’s peccadilloes, missayings and dumb-fuck observations on life. Nevertheless, several still seem prepared to overlook that, among other things:

…he treats money from his  businesses and tax-exempt charity foundation as being for his own use while paying no tax on his actual income; insults and mocks women and disabled people and Vietnam vets and grieving parents; has openly racist views of Mexicans and Muslims – whom he has pledged to ethnically cleanse – has alienated vast swaths of the electorate, and has consistently hyperinflated his tawdry record of success and capabilities as a business manager.

Equally idiotic is his defence of his admitted, and almost certainly actionable sexual misconduct, his thinly veiled attack on Bill Clinton, which basically goes: ‘I’m no worse than the other guy you wouldn’t have voted into the White House if you’d known how bad he was.’

D’oh!

Yes, he really is as dumb as he pretends to be!

So what does that make the otherwise apparently rational, intellectual Americans, some of them women with PhDs, who would still rather vote for Trump than Hillary?

 

The pitfalls of life in the outside world

At least inside the EU we didn’t have to worry about insulting anybody’s president, or their stupid religion.

Now we’re trading with the rest of the world instead (I thought we always were. Isn’t that why the EU put up with us all those years? Ed.), we’ll have to mind our ps and qs.

A Dutch man has been gaoled in Burma, sorry Myanmar, for three months with hard labour and fined £80 for ‘insulting Buddhism’.

The hapless tourist was being kept awake in the middle of the night by a very loud noise blaring out of the local temple. Unaware, he says, that a service was in progress, he went round and pulled the plug out of the loudspeaker; thereby offering a massive insult to Prince Gautama, the Enlightened One, who has been dead for two and a half thousand years.

Some enlightenment.

As far as I was aware, Buddhism isn’t even a religion. It’s technically just a philosophy, the relative equivalent of homoeopathy to actual medicine; but apparently the Myanmarese are very pious people, who also accused the miscreant of failing to remove his shoes. You have been warned.

And in some Arab countries, there are strict rules about what you can and can’t do in the street, where you might frighten the camels; while, of course, there are plenty of places in the world where it’s a criminal offence to mildly scoff at the King, the President, the Army, and even the food – Kazakhstan has a particularly suggestive national sausage made from donkey-meat, the lampooning of which on Facebook got one Scottish engineer expelled from the country.

British businessmen might find it was a lot safer and easier trading under the umbrella of the totally secular and satire-proof EU.

 

In my Prime

There are probably 99 more interesting numbers between 1 and 100, than 67. Sixty-seven is an inbetween age, neither 66 nor 68. But it seems somehow Autumnal; a transitional number from Summer to Winter; the redline between middle-age and impending curtains.

Sixty-eight is OLD!

Sixty-seven is not a propitious number, but it’s an odd one and, being indivisible by any number other than itself and 1, it’s a Prime number. Which is about all you can say for it.

My mother remembered my birthday, but I’d left my phone somewhere and we didn’t connect until the following evening. My ex-wife rang, two days late, to say she always gets confused over the date.

Our kiddiewinks ignored it, although I didn’t ignore theirs. (So, I’ve found a ‘belated’ Amazon gift voucher in my disused Yahoo! inbox. Sorry, luv. It was only a day late… a record for this family.)

I generally comment on the Number of my birthday here in muh bogl, every year. I’m not really a numerologist, but there can be something a little propitious about numbers and dates an’ stuff. There’s often a tale hanging by it, but not this year, when nothing whatever interesting occurred.

Anyway, here I am, 67 at last. My Prime.

And not a lot’s changed, frankly. (Except I’ve taken up the saxophone!)

 

A Good Night Out

So, in addition to saxophony, I treated myself last night to a little Saturday Night outing to a concert – ‘gig’ sounds too unrehearsed – by a well-polished ’70s soul music tribute act; Soul Legends.

And here I must confess that, while I present to the world as some sort of modern-jazz fiend practically from birth, and even make strenuous efforts occasionally in the area of performance, the sad fact is that my first real grownup musical love-affair was with the black American soul music we played a lot of at my first Top-40 radio station, where I worked as the news jock for three years. (Indeed, for the first ten minutes of the set I kept having to wipe away small tears of joyous memory of those twelve-hour days I put in for twenty quid a week.)

When the local arts centre advertises an eight o’clock start time, that’s generally when the audience turns up. So my initial impression of a house looking more like the ones our choir generally gets, occupied seats being as thin as the hairs on the audience’s head, proved premature.

Although not rammed, it was a pretty decent turnout for the end of the road to nowhere. What struck me then was the demographic. Apart from muh gudfriend, li’l Emma, spotted in the stalls, there were almost no people under the age of 45, and I should say those of my own era, mid-to-late 60s, were in the majority – almost all of them women. That didn’t stop them from whooping and flopping about enthusiastically on the tiny floorspace in front of the apron stage; while Mike, the somewhat world-weary MC and lead singer, enjoined us: ‘If you’ve had enough clapping, audience, just wave your arms…’.

I noticed only two actually black faces in the audience out of about 500, which caused me to wonder a little if black people in general aren’t perhaps embarrassed by this particular manifestation of their musical heritage, that has so fascinated white – especially female – audiences for almost fifty years? There’s a little racial stereotyping, isn’t there, in the white suits and mirror-polished shoes, the afro wigs and porkpie hats, the high-stepping dance routines, that’s both endearing and a bit toe-curling at the same time.

The band consisted of six talented young black singers, taking turns with rapid costume changes at being, variously, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson (a tremendous impression, although I never took to him) and Tina Turner. There was a brief tribute to the late Rod Temperton, the fish-gutter from Cleethorpes known as The Invisible Man, who, rather surprisingly, wrote Jackson’s zillion-selling Thriller album and many other massive US soul hits.

While the backing was provided by three phlegmatic, middle-aged, white British session musicians and the obligatory geeky-looking keyboard player sporting Rick Wakeman tribute waist-length hair (no member of the Tufty Club, he), who astonishingly appeared to be sight-reading the entire repertoire.

I’d guess the odd mix had something to do with the Musicians’ Union ‘Amber Rudd tribute’ quota rules. It could have done with a couple of horn players, though. Soul isn’t soul without the additional punch delivered by at least a trumpet ‘n’ sax duo. Maybe it was just lack of stage-space, or the economics of touring.

But the audience were a friendly bunch, and in the intermission two mildly inebriated ladies from a coach party sitting in my row insisted on buying me a drink, the first time in my life that has ever happened, being bought a small red wine in a plastic mug by total strangers with no ulterior motive (they’d be wasting their time if there had been. ‘Nothing works’, as Catweazle so memorably put it).

I couldn’t get near them in the crush afterwards to thank them, they were heading on to a cocktail bar, so if you’re reading this, ladies (fat chance!), bottoms up!

Another epic fail to tell my grandchildren about

Have you ever been so perfectly qualified to do a job that you almost expect not to get it?

I’ve just had a ‘better luck next time’ email from the BBC, who were not looking for a replacement anchor for Newsnight, or a new Director General.

They were looking for someone to be one of three people on-call with a key to open-up their local remote radio studio in the town where I live. How hard can that be?

Such a person would get a call a few hours in advance, whenever the programme producers needed to interview a long-distance guest on the news; greet the guest, provide hospitality and security, persuade them to switch off their phone, switch the microphone on, sit them in front of the mic, check they were hearing the right programme feed, make sure there was a line open to the control room 100 miles away, etc. (There was also a very occasional need to sit them instead in front of a TV camera, for which you needed to understand tricky terms like pan and tilt.) Full training was to be provided.

So, you had to live nearby, be available at odd times, be comfortable around not very technical broadcast equipment, have a hospitable manner even at six o’clock in the morning, be tactful and not let them smoke in the building – know when to call out the fire service – understand things about health and safety, maybe speak a bit of their strange language and be good in an emergency.

I sent them selected highlights from my CV.

Now semi-retired and looking for part-time work to keep me busy, but not too busy, I had spent nine years back-when, working in UK radio as an announcer, news writer, senior editor and producer – including nine months with a BBC local radio station on the breakfast shift, before I foolishly went off to a senior job in the commercial sector – often using self-operated technology.  I had interviewd politicians, authors, business leaders and showbiz personalities. I have a degree-level qualification in Film & TV, plus a few more years’ offline production experience, so I am, or used to be, thoroughly familiar with the milieu, as they say.  Apart from writing this and walking little Hunzi I have little else to occupy me for most of the year. And I live six minutes from the studio.

What then makes me possibly uniquely qualified among candidates to open a studio and greet guests, is that I have also spent seven years recently as a licensee, managing a £100-a-night guest house: booking, receiving and looking after guests, feeding and watering them, giving tours (it was an important historic house), hosting large wedding parties, business meetings and WI teas, maintaining a legal ‘duty of care’ obligation, writing management reports and being profit-responsible. And a while before, I’d owned my own small media business employing ten people (including women and even two French citizens) and was a member of the Institute of Directors, and the CBI, demonstrating massive levels of responsibility, inclusivity and acumen all -round.

All this was on my CV. Nowadays, I am semi-retired, but still fit and active. The questions I was asked at the interview, which seemed relaxed and informal, were all of the: ‘Can you think of any situations in which you have had to make decisions?’ variety, which are actually quite difficult to answer when you’ve done all the things I’ve done over 40 years. You’re tempted to answer, well, duh, what do you think? I’ve anchored election programmes… (Actually I started with, ‘well, I’ve been driving a car since I was 17…’)

‘Describe your attitude to diversity’ – so you’re going to confess to a prejudice against UKIP, black people generally and Muslims worst of all? I already have a part-time job at the University, where I work among people of all ages from all over the world. I’ve worked as the only man in all-women business environments. Of course I’m bloody diverse! But are they? I didn’t dare ask the question, how prejudiced were they going to be against the idea of an upper-middle-class, late-middle-aged, English-born, public-school educated, ex-BBC, able-bodied, heterosexual, white male agnostic holding a position of such power in the Welsh broadcast media? Surely, we are in the minority?

‘We are obviously looking for someone reliable. Can you give examples of how you might previously have demonstrated reliability?’ was the real doozer. Were these questions thought-up by a primary-school administrator? Sure, I had reliably delivered news bulletins on the hour for nine years! I’d managed a news operation with six journalists reporting to me, outputting 18 hours of news and current affairs shows a week! I’d been an exam invigilator for six years and never missed an exam. I’ve worked with a local drama group for the past five years and never missed a rehearsal. I last took a day off sick to undergo surgery in 2006…  I used to reliably forget to pick up my kids from the nursery after work…

As glib answer followed seemingly spurious question, I began to imagine I was missing the point somewhere. These people were professionals, in the business themselves. They knew I knew the job, it’s not rocket-science, they must have known the answers to all their scripted questions lay self-evidently in my CV and that the only point in asking them was to hear me answer them. Was I perhaps being a tad overconfident?

Then they sprang the trap.

I was led into the airless, windowless corner-cupboard that was the remote studio, and an A4-sized card of instructions was thrust into my hand. The test was to take the studio for a drive through a procedure I had not gone through for more than 30 years, in a strange environment. I had gotten less than halfway through reading how to set up the studio and which buttons I needed to press, and when to press them, before my interrogators came in and told me to start.

Everything went fine at first, despite the fact that the labelling on the buttons had worn off, forcing me to peer at them myopically, phoning Andrew in Master Control, getting the code to fire-up the line, until the stage where I had to dial-up the ISDN line itself, and one of the digits would not punch in.

Without having time to see properly how to clear the system, I tried three or four times, hoping not to show I was getting flustered. I could not see the LED display properly and had no idea why it would not connect. My brain was telling me, basically, that the system had been designed in the 1970s, which is typical of BBC Engineering policy where stuff trickles down to the regions; and could be a lot simplified with a little technology.

Why was a ‘9’ prefix necessary, for instance, when it could just be incorporated into the number? All the numbers had an obligatory ‘9’ prefix. Where else would you want to dial out to, other than a ‘9’? Why were there 25 different lines, when one would do, maybe with a couple spare? Why were we still even using ISDN when there was 100Mb fiber Broadband network available locally? Why hadn’t they shown me first, where the directory was, that you referred to when the engineer in the control room gave you the code to tell you which line to dial? Why did you need a code anyway? Why could the line not simply be activated from the control room at the other end, rather than from here?

‘Here’, said my interrogator, ‘let me have a go…’ It was basically game over, and I had lost. You try being 65, I thought, furiously, with the wrong reading glasses, and not see a better way of doing things while you’re fumbling with, basically, an antiquated system you’re going to be trained to use anyway. Had I been shown what to do even once, I would have known forever. I’m not stupid. But this was about your reaction to dealing with an emergency, and I’ve slowed down over the years, and I think too much.

Instead, hoping they’d understand sympathetically that people learn through their mistakes, I stupidly told them the story of how, many years ago, I’d once screwed-up a news opt-out doing just this exact same operation while working at the BBC in London….

So many stories. So many screw-ups.

So reliable.