“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.
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.
(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:
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.
“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.)
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.
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.
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