I lasted 18 seconds… You can’t eat a fucking Social Mobility Action Plan, Mrs May… Poisoning the diplomatic atmosphere…GW: Dead…

Pulling strings: Nigel Farage commands the fish to rise from the waters. (Sky News)

“Even a second series of The Night Manager would suck less air out of the schedules.”

 I lasted 18 seconds

Forty or so years ago there used to be a pretty anodyne and harmless but highly rated family quiz on Sunday evening primetime TV. You tended to put it on in the suburban background in lieu of anything else, other than getting remorselessly pissed on gin, there being only one and a half channels to watch and no Netflix in those good old days.

From left: £4.2 million; £3.5 million. (BBC/ David Venni) Uncle Bogler (top): £ zero million. Oh well, next time.

All-singing, all-dancing, genial master of the catchphrase: “Alright, muh luvs?” “Nice to see you, to see you nice”, etcetera – (I never promised you a prose garden, btw) – Bruce Forsyth would get contestants to stuff a duvet blindfolded in under half a minute by the big counting-down studio clock, whatever, make fools of themselves, ask them some easy questions and they’d get a chance to go away happy with a pile of crap from the pound shop, items they’d memorized going around on a conveyor belt (“Cuddly toy!”), with a main prize usually of a small, silently rusting British Leyland car to astound an audience living on five quid a week, as one was.

National treasure, Sir Brucey twirled off for the last time into the wings last year, aged 180. (“Didn’t he do well?”) So now the BBC has revived his old show with the help of the rest of the Strictly Come Dancing “comedy” presentation team: usually quite funny comedienne hoping to go straight, Sue Perkins and her besty, Mel Gdrcie (Are you sure about the spelling? Ed.), lavishing a fortune bled from your £145.50 a year TV license fee on brightly colored sets, bizarre costumes, props and raising the heights of the TV Centre doorways for special guest Richard Osman to pass through.

Unfortunately money is not, and never has been, an adequate substitute for creative originality. You need more sparkly tat.

So, anyway, if you don’t know who Richard Osman is, ask his mother. A gameshow host, promoted from Assistant Gameshow Host (“the scores, please, Richard, and cut the smartypants ad-libbing!”) he supplements his daytime TV income from a show appropriately called Pointless!, where I think the idea is contestants start with points and have to lose them, by making frequent appearances on other gameshow hosts’ gameshows.

It’s nowadays impossible that an entertainment can be created just for the TV audience (controversy has already arisen over whether the studio audience lives in a can or just shares a strange laugh that breaks out for no obvious reason now and again); Osman appeared to be one of an entire panel of “celebrity” experts invited at great expense to sit next to the stage and comment on the performance of a fat lady spinning plates. I mention Osman so frequently, only because I do at least know who he is. He’s unmistakably tall.

Even a second series of The Night Manager would suck less air out of the schedules.

Within ten seconds I was already feeling as if I’d had a flannel full of Novichok stuffed in my face. Switching off Sue and Mel’s Generation Game moments later was purely an autonomic reflex before paralysis set in. Fortunately they’re only making two in the “series”, although I have my suspicions.

Disapproving of the product, a cheap cigarette brand made from the floor sweepings at Imperial Tobacco after the night shift had gone home, under duress I once wrote an ad campaign that was so deliberately far downmarket, I’d hoped it would never get up again. The normal response to a similar campaign might with luck just be 1.5%. My hideously garish, illiterate, insulting mailshot pulled 16%. I was the hero of the hour.

No-one ever got anywhere overestimating the tastes of a bussed-in British TV audience, either. I thought those people had gone extinct in the 1980s, but… Brexit?

Look forward then to an extended run, maybe as the nights start lengthening in the Autumn and the realities of our economic situation set in, a return to the 1980s will seem attractive. In a week or so, even hardened Guardian critics will be polishing up phrases like “all good family fun” so as not to seem out of touch with the zeitgeist.

Oh. They already are.

Floral wallpaper, anybody?

 

“It’s the grey skin, the pallor. It’s the pallor you really notice.”

You can’t eat a fucking Social Mobility Action Plan, Mrs May.

Four out of five head teachers are reporting growing signs of malnutrition and sickness among their pupils.

A report compiled with the Child Poverty Action Group, presented at the annual conference of the National Education Union in Brighton reveals that many schools are having to devote increasing time and resources, not to improving test results, but to social action programs to try to relieve the consequences of nine years of knuckleheaded, attritional Government cuts to welfare, universal child benefit, tax credits – creating adverse knock-on social deficits, such as massive reductions in local government safeguarding services.

Among measures they are having to take are:

  • Creating food banks and handing out food parcels
  • Teachers supplementing meagre ‘bread and margarine’ lunches out of their own pockets
  • Providing free uniforms and laundry facilities to keep homeless children looking clean
  • Staying open during holidays with volunteer teachers providing meals
  • Offering free debt counselling
  • Providing emergency loans to families.

One head from Nottingham noted:

“Monday morning is the worst. There are a number of families that we target that we know are going to be coming into school hungry. By the time it’s 9.30am they are tired. It’s the grey skin, the pallor. It’s the pallor you really notice.”

Another from Portsmouth, said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of children with child protection issues. “Every one of these issues has had something to do with the poverty that they live in. It’s neglect. It’s because they and their families don’t have enough money to provide food, heating or even bedding.”

Head teachers acknowledged that many of the parents of these starving children are working poor, who would be marginally better off on benefits.

The Department of Education has responded with the following:

(We want) “to create a country where everyone can go as far as their talents can take them. That’s why we launched our social mobility action plan, which sets out measures to close the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers…”

Mmm, yummy. Nutritious action plan for lunch again.

Dear God, voters of Britain, when will you look up from your stupid fucking phones, instruments of social control, and throw these diseased incompetents on the bonfire of history? No civilized country should be managed like this in the 21st century.

How anyone could tolerate the continuance of this demented, morally bankrupt Tory government whose sole economic policy is, and has been for some time, to deliberately starve children of the food their brains need to “close the educational attainment gap”, is quite beyond me.

The sixth largest economy in the world and we cannot house, clothe or feed our people. Yet our crazy housing market adds two thousand paper millionaires to the heap each year. It’s obscene.

As is the brutal illogicality of spending millions on remedial action (as they claim to be doing. The evidence suggests they are lying) to “reduce child poverty” at the same time as depriving parents of the income they need to reduce child poverty.

No?

(Edited from a BBC News report, 02 April: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43611527)

 

So who could help feed Britain’s 120 thousand homeless children, and why should they?

“British wealth rose to a record £12.8 trillion in June 2016” (Cityam.com, who genuinely have a banking correspondent called Jasper Jolly…)

“A quarter of all new UK wealth goes to millionaires” (Oxfam report). “A total of 3.6 million households in Britain held wealth of more than £1m by June 2016, up 29% in two years” (BBC, quoting Office for National Statistics.)

“With the number of millionaires on the up, the wealth of the top 10 per cent of households was five times that of the bottom half combined by the end of 2016.” (thisismoney.co.uk)

“The £2 million given to him to help buy a home in the capital includes payments of £28,000 a month to cover mortgage interest. These total £740,000 since he took the top job in the summer of 2015. He will keep any profit he makes on the swish apartment if he decides to sell or rent it out. In addition to interest payments, the Pru handed Wells £514,000 to cover stamp duty on his new home – enough to buy a £5 million property. Because the payment is a taxable benefit, he was given £330,000 to settle his bill with Revenue & Customs. The company paid £200,000 for his possessions to be shipped across the Atlantic. He was also given £178,000 for temporary accommodation while he was waiting for the purchase to complete. That takes the total he has received for housing costs to £1.96 million. On top of that, he received £37,000 last year to cover flights back to the US. Wells’s package came to £8.7 million last year, taking his total pay and bonuses since he became chief executive in June 2015 to £23.6 million.” (thisismoney.co.uk on the staggering remuneration package of the Prudential UK CEO, Mike Wells.)

Of course, he may give it all away to Britain’s legions of grey children. Who knows, stranger things have happened.

 

Poisoning the diplomatic atmosphere….

As diplomatic relations slip through the rabbit-hole into an Alice in Wonderland world of threats and conspiracy theories, many of them thrown up by the wily Russian who succeeded as ambassador to the UN, a predecessor whose autopsy following his sudden death a year ago has been marked Classified, the odd case of the Salisbury Poisoner continues to raise many apparently unanswerable questions.

The Pumpkin has asked many of these right from the beginning. It has been said, for instance, that novichok A232 is a virtually instantaneously acting nerve agent, whose lethality decays over time. Yet the Skripals apparently spent several hours having lunch in town after they were supposedly contaminated at home, before they were found unconscious on a park bench.

And they have both apparently survived; unlike a Russian banker and his secretary who were also poisoned with a novichok agent in Moscow in 1995 and died almost immediately. A tribute to the skills of the NHS, I expect.

If A232 decays to the point of non-lethality, then why is it that people in suits are still scraping around Salisbury weeks later looking for traces of it to decontaminate? What do they expect to find?

Who uses their front door handle to close the door behind them?

What was Skripal doing with two guinea-pigs in the house? (Dimwitted Plod apparently sealed-up the house, leaving the Skripals’ two cats and the guinea-pigs inside to die of thirst and starvation. One of the cats was eventually taken, barely alive, to Porton Down for examination for traces of nerve agent but had to be put down by a vet. The other has gone missing. This is surely a matter for the RSPCA?) I’ll repeat the question. Cats, okay, so James Bond – but what was Skripal doing with two guinea-pigs in the house?

Did he manufacture the A232 himself, for some other purpose? It can be done in your garage, apparently, following some simple instructions available from certain sources. See:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/06/uk-us-case-file-russian-nerve-agent-shikhany-spy-poisoning

Many questions also remain, concerning the contaminated policeman, Detective Sergeant Bailey. It now appears a second, unnamed policeman was also treated in hospital. Why has he remained unnamed thus far, but not Bailey? Did Skripal have a security detail – or just a tail?

Where did they come into contact with the A232? If it was at the house, as was reported, then how did the police know to go there before the couple had been identified or a nerve agent had even been pinpointed as the cause of the Skripals’ distress? When in the timeline did that happen – as it’s not the most likely scenario?

If someone had searched the unconscious Skripal’s pockets and found an address, how were they not also contaminated?

If the nerve agent had been suspected before Sgt Bailey went to the house, why did he go there unprotected? Was Sgt Bailey indeed the “first responder” at the scene – a detective sergeant, called out to a report of two people who, witnesses say, looked like drunks or druggies on a park bench?

If he had been, then he surely would not have been the one to go straight to the house….  as he would have been too busy making reports at the scene. Did he already know who the Skripals were, and where they lived?

Was someone anticipating just this scenario?

Nothing adds up and I doubt it ever will. But if I were Yulia Skripal, I certainly would not want to go back to Moscow with Cousin Viktoria.

Just sayin’.

 

GW:

“The greatest declines were seen in west Antarctica. At eight of the ice sheet’s 65 biggest glaciers, the speed of retreat was more than five times the rate of deglaciation since the last ice age” – cpom.org.uk

With a current 4C 2m/surface temperature anomaly, Antarctica is now coming in for the scare story treatment as scientists find that most of the melting is going on unnoticed, UNDERNEATH the vast ice shelves and glaciers.

“The results could prompt an upward revision of sea-level rise projections.” – (UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.)

Spring 2017

Dead

In April last year I’d already begun posting in amazement at the incredible outpouring of biomass I’d observed in our valley. The speed and volume of growth so early in the year were, in my view, unprecedented.

Climbers fighting for light, 2017.

Trees that would not normally crown before May were already densely and – for a change – healthily in leaf; wildflowers were blooming, the nearby playing fields covered in snowy mats of daisies; ground-cover and climbing plants fighting for light in the densely packed hedgerows and head-high clumps of already berrying brambles.

Just outside my studio, five years ago I planted perennial herbs. A border hedge of rosemary; oregano, that would be covered in bees, a clump of thyme. And a rather expensive, miniature ornamental Japanese acer.

They’re all dead.

As is most of a hebe I planted three years ago in the front garden; although a couple of other plantings seem healthy – a hydrangea labelled ‘hardy’ seems to be just that, coming into leaf. The early clematis Hendersonii is in flower…

But nothing much has come to life in the valley. I’m walking Hunzi along paths lined with dried-out, dead last-year’s vegetation, withered brambles, a few bearing stricken early leaf buds; here and there ivy, leaves turning brown at the tips, shrivelled berries; evergreens looking blasted and ever-brown; clumps of bleached grass; a few daisies, celandine and dandelions showing, but nothing like the riot of exuberance we had this time last year.

Spring 2018.

Evergreens turning brown.

Now, okay, admittedly it has been a colder winter, later than we’ve had for a while. But not nearly as cold or snowy here on the west coast as in the east. Cold and wet. And I haven’t seen any flying insects at all (no, a few midges came out yesterday with the sun and I was buzzed by a solitary foraging bee on our walk in the rain just now. It won’t find anything.) While the birds started nesting in February, I’m wondering what they’re getting to eat?

Then, I’m seeing too that these die-offs appear to be recent, and simultaneous, although the hardest frost was three weeks ago. It’s like Russia has sprayed everything overnight with weedkiller.

Is it something we’ve done?

USA: caught in a loop of the jetstream, Winter Storm Wilbur is dumping another foot of snow over the northern states, from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, as the song goes. It’s the fifth major winter storm event of the year, but it’s a double-whammy as a second front is also hitting the east coast, including New York. Too warm to settle for long, though.

“A powerful late-season atmospheric river is headed for central California late this week, with the potential to bring near-record rains for April … Intense rain rates on Friday night will pose a flood risk in the Sierra Nevada, where the runoff will be bolstered by rain-induced snowmelt. By Saturday, high winds and heavy rains will rake parts of western Oregon and Washington … ‘This is really an historic event …’ said Cliff Mass (University of Washington)”.

“Torrential rain, strong winds, lightning strikes and flash floods hit parts of Indiana and Illinois” on 3 April, Indianapolis recording its wettest ever April day. Local forecasts for Phoenix Az. are predicting the return of 100F, 39C temperatures next week – still early mid-April. Dangerous UV levels already being measured.

Canada: powerful winds knock down buildings in Ontario.

Meanwhile northern Europe and Russia have also seen extreme cold and heavy snow persisting well into spring. These huge pools of arctic air make the northern hemisphere look like Narnia, but elsewhere across Africa, the middle East, the SW US, Australia there are enough hotspots still to keep global temperatures marginally above the 1980-2011 average for March/April.

Bangladesh, Nepal: 7 killed in severe storms, massive hail smashes houses down.

Brazil: STILL raining intensively in many areas, flash floods, cities underwater in Goias province and elsewhere. In Mexico, an intense hailstorm reduces streets in Tlalpan to rivers of ice.

Argentina: “Over 50 people were evacuated and dozens of streets closed after flooding in Río Gallegos, Santa Cruz province. Local media reported that the city received 3 times the amount of rain it would normally see for the whole of April.”

Fiji: “At least 4 people (now 6) were killed and another was missing after Cyclone Josie caused severe flooding in the South Pacific island nation. Josie moved past the island of Vitu Levu from 31 March as a category 1 storm, bringing with it heavy rain and wind gusts up to 100 km/h.”

Vanuatu: flash floods destroy homes.

Indonesia: Devastating floods in Sumatra and Java.

Greece: “Several rivers in the Balkans have broken their banks over the last few days, causing flooding in parts of northern Greece, southeastern Bulgaria and northwestern Turkey.” Police are searching for a party of “about 15” migrants thought to be missing after trying to cross a swollen river.

UK: “Snow and heavy downpours closed roads and caused travel disruption throughout the holiday weekend of 31 March to 02 April … Emergency services were called to rescue at least 8 people trapped in flood waters. Up to 10cm (4ins) of snow blanketed areas of north England, north Wales and Scotland. At one point on 02 April there were 271 flood alerts in place…” Interestingly, GW noticed absolutely none of these events taking place locally from her eyrie in Wales. Sorry.

World: “Storms, floods and other extreme weather events are hitting cities much harder than scientists have predicted, said the head of a global network of cities tackling climate change.” According to Mark Watts, executive director of the C40 climate change alliance: “Almost every (C40 member) city is reporting extreme weather events that are off all the scale of previous experience, and ahead of all the modeling of climate change.”

Edited from reports: Boglington Post/ Floodlist/ Wunderground/ MrMBB333 website/ CEWN #107, #108/ Reuter

 

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Passing through the Cloud of Improbability, and other tales of the unexpected

 “When I go into the Map Room of Palmerston I cannot help remembering that this country over the last two centuries has directed the invasion or conquest of 178 countries.” – Boris Johnson describing his new offices (The Guardian, 11 October)

I react to this statement with the same frisson of horror at the depths to which self-aggrandising, sexually incontinent Alpha madmen like Johnson and Donald Trump can sink when they disengage from their essential humanity as anyone might to the allegations against Trump.

Actually, that’s almost all I can think to say about it. This is our new Foreign Secretary, the face of Britain abroad, who has been charged with the task of cementing new trading relations with other countries around the world, to replace the pointless void that is about to be created by the graceless abrogation of our treaty commitments to our 500 million neighbours in the European Union, gloating over Britain’s long-lost military ‘greatness’.

Just as well to remind Johnny Foreigner in advance, who’s the boss.

 

The young today, I don’t know

Dreadful dirge though our British national anthem may be, after the Rio Olympics you would imagine most people in the world are now pretty sick of hearing it.

I was astounded then when, on being asked to sing only the first two lines for dramatic purposes, not one member of a chorus of seven young people at my drama group, six of them in their early 20s, one perhaps excusably still a minor, had any idea either of the words or the tune.

‘God save our gracious Queen, long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen.’

The tune, if you can call it that, is lost in the mists of time. The dismal words hail from a 1745 ‘catch’ song by one Thomas Arne, the ensemble becoming the national anthem only 150 years later. They go on to ask God’s help in confounding the knavish tricks of our enemies, which Johnson would approve of; but wind up in verse 5 piously hoping for universal peace and brotherhood – a verse politicians no longer sing.

Of course, in 1745 we had a German king on the throne, George 11; also, a Scottish Jacobite Catholic rebellion going on, to reinsert (with French help, that was not entirely forthcoming) Bonnie Prince Charlie into the line of the British monarchy, that had been diverted away from the Catholic succession with the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

(You will often hear blimpish British dimwits asseverating pompously that we have not been conquered since 1066. 1688 saw the deposition of James 11 in favour of a Dutch prince, William of Orange, who landed at Gravesend with 20,000 troops and was immediately elevated to the throne. His legacy sadly was the plantation of protestant Scottish farmers in Ulster that led inexorably to sectarian division and the Troubles.)

Charles Stuart was the presumed heir of James 11. His army came close to seizing London, but on receiving false information that a second English army was approaching, they stupidly retreated.

The King’s younger brother, the Duke of – later known as ‘Butcher’ – Cumberland, then massacred the Scots at Culloden; the defeat was absolute and led to the Highland clearances and fierce laws proscribing Catholicism in British institutions, including the monarchy.

Of the seven execrable dwarfs, two may be excused, possibly, although Wales is part of the United Kingdom, on the grounds that they are of slightly differing ethnic groups: one Welsh, the other Irish. Both claimed in their defence to know the words and tune of their respective local dirges; which, admittedly, I don’t, entirely.

Even so.

 

Passing through the Cloud of Improbability

We all hate computers, I know. Even writing those words causes my brain to turn to the stuff you find in the filter of your tumble dryer, without the 20p coin.

Yet I cannot help throwing out this plea for a lifeline, since my ‘teenager’ (okay, so he’s 23. I’m only 29, so it’s impossible) toodled off to do his MSc.

Y0u see, something beyond normal happened and I have to tell someone, even if it’s only you.

Yesterday I left my desktop PC running while I took Hunzi for his morning excursion around the exurban space that passes for our local park, and when we got back I found the computer had detached itself from the internet by the simple expedient of losing not only its connection (wired) with the router, but also the router itself, which was no longer to be found on the list of available hubs.*

The router itself was still showing the steady blue light that says it has a good connection with the broadband service. After ‘switching it off and on again’ several times, at both ends, and having checked all the connections, I tried the desperate alternative of hooking up this, muh li’l laptop thing, that I haven’t used for two months. And lo, it spaketh immediately to the internet even without benefit of the LAN cable, by dint of magical wirelessness; as does my new tabloid, to which I managed to download 1,300 transposable jazz chord charts in a matter of seconds.

So here I am, typing the usual weekly garbage into WordPress on my laptop once again; happily aware that the old version of WordPress is still running here, while on my PC it has become something unbearably stupid, just for the sake of the new (none of the actual annoying things users complain of has been fixed in the process).

But that’s not the end of it, oh no.  (My cursor just disappeared, by the way. It’s cursed.)

Probably the worst effect of the now notorious Microsoft birthday  ‘upgrade’ of Windows 10 was to render all the music files on my PC unopenable. It says it has encountered a ‘problem’, but won’t say what.  I tried three media players before concluding that I might not be able to play all muh jazz rec’ds on the computer ever again without benefit of a teenager.

Joy, the files having been transferred over in bulk from the laptop when we installed the PC, they were still held in the old disk memory of the laptop. Having not used it since before the devastating upgrade, I found all the old settings still intact and seemingly free from the dead hand of Gates’ beanbags.

So I opened up the Media Player and selected a fav’rit track.

Now… no sleight of hand, nothing up my sleeve, and please understand: the laptop is not by any means connected to the PC, which by now I have powered down in despair. (Drum roll)

As I played the music tracks stored on the laptop, one by one the tracks in the list that were not playing started to shut down, all by themselves. Little red flags were appearing next to the track listings in my libraries, four or five at a time, until the entire playlist became inaccessible; and so on to the next one, and the next, until there was not a single file left that would open.

Do you believe in the supernatural? Yes, that’s what I thought. But I don’t.

I just don’t understand what the fuck is happening? How can that happen all by itself to licensed files I have been playing for months and years, taken off paid-for CDs, on a machine that has no connection to the faulty one?

I am getting the notion that, as the sun orbits the galaxy, the Earth passes periodically through a region of space, a Cloud of Improbability, that turns natural order on its head. Absolutely nothing is making sense right now

*Yes, I know, I can try reconnecting the hub to the network, can’t I. That’s if I can get on the internet…. d’oh!

 

There’s no business like big-business

Why am I not surprised that Donald Trump can’t manage to present himself as anything other than a repulsive, bullying, self-absorbed narcissist, an overweight racist sex-pest with bad hair, a tasteless dumbfuck who pays no tax but makes free with his companies’ finances and boasts vaingloriously about his $billions, that others have made for him?

Principally because I spent fifteen years of my life working in or freelancing for advertising agencies.

During that time, I counted that I had worked on creative and strategic consultancy projects for some 200 different companies and NGOs.

As represented by the bulk of their management teams, in my experience that’s an awful lot of repulsive, bullying, swaggering, self-aggrandising sexists and racists with bad hair, bad breath and bad suits I’ve unfortunately met in my lifetime.

I’ve bogld before about M., the agency MD who diverted the entire staff bonus pool into buying himself a yacht? That was after we’d hit our revenue targets for the year twice-over by December. Our reward was a Christmas card and a £10 shopping voucher.

M. – forgive the stereotyping, but he was both Jewish and Welsh, resulting in a combination of personality traits unfortunate except in one so obsessed with value for money – used to invite selected staff up to his house to watch pornography via his massive satellite dish, that could get Danish programmes. He seemed unconcerned that his wife and 13-year-old daughter were both sleeping with the same employee, who rented a room above the offices.

And the purpose of the yacht was twofold: one, so that he could produce made-up invoices claiming he had chartered the boat to clients, thus reclaiming VAT on non-existent transactions; and two, so he could ship suitcases full of cash over to Jersey, where he had an offshore account. There was, it must be said, the occasional waterside champagne junket for staff during Cowes Week: he had to keep us quiet somehow.

Of course, allegedly.  None of it can be proved – it was over 30 years ago.

Then there was B. A psychopath with almost no education, the MD of a backwoods PR agency I worked for, B. was so dysfunctional that he employed several PAs to try to manage his diary. It was never enough, he was always double-booking his own appointments and instead of simply rescheduling, would manufacture operatic lies to get around the problem.

On one occasion, he told a client he could not make a meeting because his wife was gravely ill in hospital. The poor man, a devout Christian, spent many hours on his knees praying for her recovery. Turning up to the rearranged meeting two days later, he was somewhat startled when she walked into the room unannounced, miraculously saved by Jesus.

Driving with me to a large client many miles away, B. was in a state of panic as he realised he’d agreed to meet several separate divisional managers simultaneously. Would I take one of the meetings? Only, it was essential that I screwed a budget of £5k out of the marketing manager for a proposed video project. He went obsessively on and on about it for miles – it was no problem for me, I had a lot more experience than he did – until finally he promised me £200 as a bonus if I achieved the target.

Back in the car, he asked nervously how it had gone. Fine, I said, I got the £10k out of him…. B. travelled back in silence. Of course, I never saw the £200.

B. also had a nasty habit of delegating shit jobs to juniors, for instance ordering them to get on the phone and beat-down suppliers on their invoices after the work had been signed-off. He would stand behind them, screaming hysterically and quite audibly to the hapless victim on the other end: ‘Tell ‘im ‘e’s a fuckin’ cunt and I’ll destroy his fuckin’ business if he doesn’t do it!’

I have honestly never been happier to be called into an MD’s office to be fired – the reason being, he said, because he needed my salary to hire another PA. I’m hoping by now someone will have stuck a paperknife in his eye, because of all the  bog-stupid trash in business I’ve ever met, B. most deserved it.

I tried to avoid corporate nights out, but sometimes attendance was unavoidable. So I have my own private views about foul-mouthed racist and sexist comedians, minor ‘as-seens’ earning extortionate fees for being embarrassingly unfunny in a roomful of inebriated cheap suits, all boasting about their sexual fantasies and being experts on football.

The worst example of sexual harrassment I ever heard of – happily I wasn’t there, but my ex-wife was – occurred at one such event in 1986, a leaving do for a female marketing manager, I forget her name, let’s call her K.

K. was a rather plump, plain, ginger-haired Irish catholic girl, with bad skin and a somewhat frumpish personality to match; but reasonably good at her job. The marketing director, a noisy, balding oaf, got up onstage and, after a witty speech (some of which I wrote, in Shakespearian blank verse), presented her with her leaving gift: an inflatable male rubber sex doll with an erect penis. The room, almost entirely unmarriageable men with bad breath and dandruff, exploded in raucous laughter.

You may know the company, UniBond. They make overpriced, niche-marketed gloop for DIY enthusiasts. It’s a waste of money, don’t buy it.

D. was the ‘editor’ of an appalling weekly freesheet newspaper with a small circulation in a town near Oxford, on which out of desperation I’d obtained a day’s work a week as a freelance subeditor – a job for which I had no experience of actually making up newspaper pages, as I’d only worked on corporate magazines and in radio and TV newsrooms. It paid fairly well – £96 a day – but involved a 100-mile round trip from my home; and a bit of a learning curve.

Another psychopath, D. would sit for hours, brooding in his darkened glass fishtank, from where he could monitor all our input. From time to time he would erupt like a Disney octopus, oozing out into the filthy, disordered, rubbish-strewn newsroom with its burned-out monitor screens and demoralised journalists, to scream at the top of his voice, over some minute typographical error: ‘I pays you fuckin’ Fleet Street rates an’ I ‘as to do all the fuckin’ work meself!’

He fancied himself as a newspaperman, but I learned from one leaving employee – the staff turnover was rapid – that he had formerly been employed only as a typesetter in the printroom of, I think it was, The Sun.

One day, a fresh young journalist arrived to take up his first job in the murky business. He’d given notice at his flat 200 miles away in Yorkshire before travelling down, and taken a rented room in town. D. instructed him: ‘There was a fight in ‘x’ pub last night, I want you to take a photographer and go and interview the landlord and bring back twenty photo opps.’

We all looked at one another sidelong. Photograph what? There was no story! A drunk had been ejected after aiming a punch at the publican, nothing more.

An hour later, the young journalist returned with only five shots showing the exterior of the pub, and the landlord. ‘Right’, screamed D., ‘You’re fuckin’ useless. You’re fired!’

And he was, in tears.

At the end of my shift, I informed D. that I couldn’t afford the travelling and would not be coming in the following week. He looked at me, crestfallen. ‘Was it something I said?’ he asked, pathetically.

Business is overrun with these dismal, underqualified, insecure bullying cretins and madmen. They’re endemic to the culture. It may explain why our economy has been tanking at least since the Second World War. In my view, directors should be forced to take a business driving test showing their fitness to employ people, before being registered and allowed to practise.

Or see a good psychiatrist.

I suspect Trump might fail on either count.

 

The return of God

We all thought the old sod was dead, and good riddance, but seemingly not.

In the next episode of this, muh Bogl, our Nobel prizewinning  Science correspondent, Kirsty Quark (@infinityandbeyond) investigates the ‘Simulation Theory’ of Creation.

Is God alive and well and sitting on a beanbag in Silicon Valley?

You need to know….