Monday, 2 April 2018

Dear Herod - Thursday 29th March

Dear Herod,

What a tiresome day!  I spent the day on high tension about the benchmarking report due at work.  I always feel the burden of such things very keenly.  I think the courses at work are largely taught well, with good teachers, are well planned, and that students get a good deal.  But the deal with these inspections is always in the admin.  Again, I think the administration at work is run fairly well, but that is not what inspectors are looking at.  What they want to see is that you can produce documents to show you understand what they are looking for.  And if I can't, I am at fault, and my careless interpretation of inspectionese could endanger my workplace.

The promised report was due today.  I sent an email checking all was in progress, and was promised it by the close of play (a hated term).  I was planning to finish at 3am, as I had worked quite early during the week, and was quite a bit over my hours.  It would be nice to go home early before the long break, and rest before setting off to a Maundy Thursday Supper.

It was not to be.  The report came at 17.45pm.  I was tired and hungry, and needed to click through the document (51 pages) before sending it on.  I arrived home feeling tired and frustrated.  Plus I had to cook an unexpected meal, being too late to go to the planned supper.  A little Bach soothed me, but the trials of the day, with having to deal with the social media battle for the left, the reports on the Brexit Calamity due one year on today, and I felt quite off-sorts.  Not a good start to a difficult weekend.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Book Review 2062 - The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

2013 English
Purchased: Kindle 2017
Read: 14th February to 1st March 2018

I loved this book, as I have loved Tartt's other novels.  Like them, it was long (I think the print edition has nearly 800 pages).  It took me a long time to read as I have not read so much in the last weeks.

The Goldfinch is a picture by an old Dutch Master, on display in a New York gallery.  Theo Decker visits the gallery with his mother, and a bomb goes off.  For some reason he decided to save the picture, keeping it in his rucksack, and then not knowing what to do with it.  He lives with a family that take him in until his indifferent father turns up and takes him off to a housing development on the edge of Las Vegas, where he befriends Boris.  Later, he moves back to New York, living with a friendly auction dealer.

There is enormous human detail here.  Tartt meticulously researches for writing, yet does not parade her knowledge.  There is time to get into the characters which makes them more human.  Theo is drawn with a sympathetic pen, and I found he thinks like I do in many situations.  The plot unhatches slowly and does not dominate the book.  It would make a splendid serial for Netflix, with a slow burn style.

I won't reveal the ending - it was mainly satisfactory.  I cared very much about Theo and what happened to him.  Boris is an unsympathetic but likeable hero.  Hobie is a wonderfully English character from an earlier period.  It is worth reading this - it is a long read, but not a difficult one.

Dear Herod - Wednesday 28th March

Dear Herod,

I finished off an important article today which is good.  I can now concentrate on some other things, and getting some genealogy stuff done.  I spoke to Mother who is improving greatly, which I am relieved about.  She even claimed she is eating more, although I will believe that when I see it.  I reminded her that I had cooked several meals for the freezer, and she declared her intention to take a macaroni cheese out for dinner.

I finally wrote my book review for the Goldfinch.  I am nearly ready to write another review.  I am reading too purposefully lately, and need to read more fiction.  I am very much enjoying Pope Hadrian VII, and then next up is Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which I dread.  I must try to get through it, but feel not in the least disposed to read it, especially after a recent dramatisation on Radio 4.  I will read a quarter of it, and then assess if I should carry on.

The guy from Flat 4 is enraged because a local transmitter is down meaning there is no BBC4.  He asked me if I had had any problems, and was incredulous when I confessed I only watch TV via the fire stick, so had not noticed it.  He would have been even more incredulous if I had told him that I don't think I have seen anything at all from BBC4 this year.  That said, I have been devouring Civilisations but that is a BBC2 programme.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Dear Herod - Tuesday 27th March

Dear Herod,

A peculiar coincidence happened on the way home today. I had visited Tesco for the purpose of garnering victuals, and, having crossed the main road, was proceeding homewards, when I thought I heard my name being called out. Immediately embarrassed, I put my head down to continue, and listen out for another call, which I would respond to. After all, I might have misheard, it might have been for another Nigel, it would be embarrassing to turn around and have everyone look at me and know my name.

But no, the call came again, and it was someone on the other side of the road. I peered across, and recognised Tenor Rep from the Chorus I used to sign with. I signalled to her that I would cross the road to speak to her, and hurried to the crossing just ahead. It turns out she moved in just around the corner (quite literally) in October. The marvvel is that we have not bumped into one another before. It was nice to see her; she is a friendly character. She has not sung with the Chorus for a few months, as she had fallen over and hurt her leg (and, indeed was still using a stick). I do miss singing with them - they have rebranded and seem to be back on track, but the fees are very expensive now (£324 a year) and I was put off by the prospect of doing drama which happened last time I was there. I do miss singing very much, and it was a friendly bunch. I might give it some thought, and give some thought to finding a classical choir to sing with, as it has been a while since I sang some classical items, and I miss it much. We don't get to sing that often at church any more, as we are too few.

I started watching a Netflix series called Magnificent Century (Muhteşem Yüzyıl), a Turkish series about Suleyman the Magnificent. My knowledge of Turkish history is limited to its interactions with European History, notably Mehmet II and the capture of Constantinople, and the decline of the nineteenth century. It is good to learn something more, and it is a gripping drama, and, being produced in Turkey which is a little more conservative, it is not a flesh-fest, focussing on the drama, rather than perked up sex scene, or gore.  I need to find a good book about the Ottoman Empire.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Dear Herod - Monday 26th March

Dear Herod,

Monday was the first day of the vacation at work, but there is a three day conference for an outside group.  This meant there were a lot of people milling around, and this would normally vex me as I like the quietness of the vacation after a busy term, and I am always busy at the end of term.  However, the visitors were a particularly agreeable bunch, and were little trouble.  It made the day go quickly too.

After work, I headed off to church, to meet Church Manager and talk about the storage of music.  There is a LOT of music in a lot of different places.  But I love to organise (despite my own lack of organisation) and a bit of consultation and moving things around, and things are definitely on the go.  As an award for coming in and doing it, I was treated to a pint at the pub opposite.  Two pub trips in one week, shocking! - still it is Holy Week.after all, and I am a non-conformist.  It was a most agreeable time - the first time we had really spoken and it was good to connect and muse on things over beer.  Perhaps I need to make sure more pub trips happen.

I was rather pensive in the evening.  After the conversation with Sister 3 last night, I was thinking about all my books at mum's.  They are going to have to go - I had hoped I would be able to bring them down to London, but I will never be able to live somewhere with a room for books.  I will have to sort them out - I am thinking of taking one box to fill with special treasures, but it is going to be really hard.  My beloved Penguin Classics, all my uni books, childhood books.  It will help me not to be attached to possessions I guess, so I shall try to be all noble and sacrificial about it.  I think I find harder the fact that I just afford to get by.  I shall never live in a house, or even a one bed flat.  I am content with what I have, but it is a pity there is no room for books.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Dear Herod - Sunday 25th March

Dear Herod,

I had a bad night last night.  I always do when I drink beer, and I always forget this.  If I drink wine, I sleep well, but beer might as well be packed with caffeine.  I therefore felt tired and rather sombre this morning.  It is Palm Sunday, so joy would be required at church, together with joyful songs.  I was not in the mood, so stayed in and read a sermon and thought a lot.  Being sombre is good for me, as I always feel like writing, so I sat down in the afternoon and got on with some more writing.  The research I banked up has proved useful, so I got quite a lot done, and have nearly reached my April deadline.  I shall then be able to spend all the lovely spring days at my leisure, and go for lots of walks, and get lots of vitamin D and lose weight.

I read a very interesting paper this afternoon on the Thirty Years War.  I need to get to grips with this period a bit more, and I now have some useful pointers.  It took the approach that religious fervour was the cloak for good old-fashioned land greed and jostling for influence.  I need to think about that a bit more, but I like the conclusion.

I cooked orzo tonight and made salad.  It was very good.  I was supposed to cook enough to take some to work for lunch tomorrow, but forgot, and then was hungry anyway.  This is tiresome.  I need to be more organised on the domestic front, and need to purge my place a bit.  I have not used the Instant Pot in ages, and wonder if I should pass it on.  Sigh.

Distressed email received today.  Not in the mood to reply.  Perhaps on Tuesday evening.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Dear Herod - Saturday 24th March

Dear Herod,

I was curious to find, in my "tweets you may have missed" timeline, a tweet from a friend referring to the royal family as the "House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha".  I have noticed that this is often used by people criticizing the royals.  I know of someone else who always refers to the Queen as Mrs Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.  I feel uncomfortable with this.  I am reminded of Zac Goldsmith's mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan, making much of his Islamic faith, and targeting Hindu voters with with leaflets about him.  It was nothing less than dogwhistle racism, and I fear this is true of my friend's tweet.  It got me thinking more about whether monarchy is or is good, which is a confusing issue for me.

In the afternoon, I went up to the city for a pint (three and a half, shockingly) with Welsh Pal.  I was surprised how full the tube was - it was a Charing Cross branch train, but, unusually, I sat at the front.  Perhaps it is always like that at the front.  There were people standing from Kentish Town onwards.  Maybe it is like this at 2pm on a Saturday.  It was a very good afternoon, with an easy chat ranging over all manner of subjects.  It is good to talk with someone who is moderate, informed, yet passionate and reasonable.  I particularly admired his position on Israel and Palestine.  I am frequently surrounded by people who have a less than helpful view in either direction on that question.  The raging anti-semitism of Momentum which is infecting the Labour party, the raging anti-Israeli sentiment in my church, and the overwhelmingly pro-Israel dispensationalism of the broader church are all guaranteed to continue the hatred.  As the Good Friday agreement starts being unpicked in preparation for Brexit, I am reminded that its commonsense approach, bringing together both sides, has delivered peace for a long time in Northern Ireland.  The Middle East needs a Good Friday agreement (although such a nomenclature would surely be most inappropriate).

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Dear Herod - Friday 23rd March

Dear Herod,

today is the last day of term.  It came upon me rather unexpectedly; I am usually counting down the days.  But today felt like another day.  And so it was. 

I remembered the cards I had picked up the night before.  The man on the driving licence did not appear to be on Farcebook or Twitter.  Google told me that the driving licence should be cut up and returned to the DVLA, and that national ID card should be returned to the Bulgarian embassy.  This seemed a nuisance, and did not solve the situation of the other cards.  So I looked up the company on the work card, and called the number, to find myself speaking to the unfortunate gentleman in question.  He was a builder and his van had been broken into the previous day.  He had lost a lot of tools and money.  He took my work address and turned up a couple of hours later.  He was palapably relieved to get the cards back, and most grateful.  I told him where they had been found, and he went off to check.

In the afternoon, several of the students were having a chat, and I sat down, and partly joined in.  Xxx was sating quite a few things that triggered the feminist in my, and I unwisely contributed a little.  At one point, he asserted that men didn't want to become primary school teachers because they were not allowed to discipline pupils, which OFSTED had proscribed.  I asked for the proof of this, and he pointed to the fact that there were so few male primary teachers.  The argument of the facts aside, I was irked that when I asked for evidence, I was provided with the result, not the evidence.  I doubt this particular student is on Farcebook, but it was obvious proof of the danger of fake news and dodgy statistics.  Such foolish use of rhetoric delivered Brexit to a deceived nation.

In the evening I watched an episode of Benidorm, a guilty pleasure I tend to keep secrets.  I am still smarting from Sister 3's assertion that I am like Gavin, and she imagines I would be just like him in Benidorm, despising the experience and offering acerbic commentary.  I smart because it is partly true.  I would loathe a holiday in such a place, but, unlike Gavin, I recognise that, for many, if not most people, it is what they would want.  I clearly need to cultivate a less curmudgeonly attitude.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Dear Herod... the diary of a Banbury Man

I have kept a diary for 34 years.  It started with a New Year's Resolution and a Christmas present from my grandmother, I think because she had seen me reading my brother's copy of A Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.  As a sorely misunderstood teenager, surrounded by Philistines who comprehended little of the difficulties of my existence, such a diary appealed.  I wrote it keenly,  writing a whole A4 page every day for a few years.  While at university, I began to type my diary on Herod, my manual typewriter, seeing it as a way of practising my typing.  I began writing Dear Herod at the top, affecting the Dear Kitty of Anne Frank.  Sometime later, the diary began to be computer based, and now it is in the cloud.

I have confided my deepest secrets and fears to the diary.  I have told it of my anger and my anguish.  I have committed to it the vicissitudes of my spiritual struggles, my emotional life, my work worries.  It has formed a travel diary, a commentary on the life and character of those around me, a journal of my nation, and my thoughts on the latest news.  While I do not write every single day, believing it should be a diary that serves me, rather than masters me, I write on average five times a week, and never less than three times a week.

Over the next month, I intend to publish extracts from my live diary - edited by me, and with attempts to preserve the anonymity of those mentioned.  I doubt this will interest anyone, as my life is quite humdrum, but I like the idea of doing this, and entertain the grand notion that someone might be inspired to keep their own diary.  I am very glad I have kept mine - it has calmed and soothed me, helped me to process complex matters, and been a useful reminder.

Extracts will appear a day or two after written.  Prepare to be stultified.

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Big Fat Theory - responding to fat-shaming.

Everyone who knows me knows I am big and fat.  If someone as asked to describe me, they would say "a big fat guy with a beard".  And they would be right.  I am big, I am fat, and I have a beard.

I have spoken about being fat before, here: http://thebanburyman.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/f-word.html

Occasionally, people do pass unkind comment, and I deal with it as I set out here below.

Yesterday, at church, someone in a group of people asked me how I was, knowing I had been unwell lately.  As we spoke, one person in the group piped up and said I needed surgery on my stomach, to make it flat.

I immediately asked why I needed such surgery, as I did not have a problem.  There was a very long and awkward silence.

Now, when such things are said, I am well within my rights to take offence, and point that out.  But I have found my approach above to be an effective one.  Without causing argument, or losing my temper, I cause awkwardness and embarrassment, that make it difficult for the person to contnue.

As has happened every time I have employed this method, the person concerned later came and apologised to me.  I explained that I had not been personally upset (which is true) but that what they had said was offensive (which is true) and that they did not know how I might take such a comment, and that comments like this can cause enormous upset.

Job done.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Don't they look lovely!

I was recently at a recital where five sopranos were performing, taking in turns to perform cabaret songs, accompanied by a chap on the piano.  At the beginning, the organiser got up to introduce the evening, and said, of the sopranos "don't they look lovely".

He was not wrong.  They were kitted out in lovely dresses, and were smart, just as one would expect a professional to dress at a classical recital.

Two weeks later, at another recital, this time, a cycle of Britten songs, there were four tenors/baritones, and a male hornist there.  The organiser got up and introduced the evening, but said nothing about their appearance.

The men were kitted out in smart black suits, with plain blue shirts (no tie).  They were all very smart, just as one would expect a professional to dress at a classical recital.

Now, if the organiser had said of the men "don't they look lovely" that would have seemed a little odd.  Smart might have been a more appropriate adjective, but, generally, we don't think it appropriate to comment on the appearance of men, unless there is something particularly unusual or striking.

So why is it acceptable to comment on the appearance of women?  Why did the sopranos look lovely, and why was it OK to say so?  Why did a former boss of mine used to describe men as "a good chap" or "a hard worker" and women as "a lovely girl" or "and pretty girl".  Why is such attention paid to the outfits Theresa May wears?

I want to point out that the organiser of these concerts is known to me.  He is a good man, and deeply committed to equality and inclusivity.  But I think his words, which meant no harm, betray something deeper down, even in those who strive for fairness.  The fact that I would have found it jarring if he had said "don't the boys look lovely" but found it less jarring that he said this about the women betrays that I have been accustomed to these societal norms.

I want to think more about this.  Using things said to women and transferring them to men often shows how inappropriate we are in the way we address women and their appearance.  This video shows the ridiculous way we portray women: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SrpARP_M0o

Lastly.  A girl is a young female child.  And older female is a woman.  She might be a young woman or an old woman.  But not a girl.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Frasier

I have always loved Frasier.  I came across it a couple of years into its run.  Straightaway, I recognised that this was no foolish American sitcom, such as was being shown during the nineties here in the UK.  It was clever, and it was humane.  Frasier's pomposity, his humanity, his rivalry with his brother Niles.  Niles' absent wife, and lines about his various therapy groups.  The unrequited love of Niles for Daphne, obvious to all except her.  Ros, a confident woman (at a time there were no confident women on TV).  Martin, the poor father, bewildered by his sons, yet loving them.  There were farces, yet a continuing story.  I was close to tears at the last episode.

It is on Channel 4 daily in the morning, and I often tune in, even though I have the full series on DVD.  John Mahoney, who plays Martin, died recently, and I found this splendid article that shows the central place Martin occupies in Frasier.  It really is very good.  Do read it.

https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/tv-radio/2017/08/martin-crane-s-hideous-chair-was-true-star-frasier

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Living Former Presidents of the USA and their wives

Today in 1945, George H W Bush married Barbara Pierce.  Today, they are still alive, and celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary.  What other Presidents and wives are alive?

The most recent ex-President, and the latest American leader of the Free World, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle are both still alive.  They married in in 1992, and had their silver wedding on 3rd October just gone.

George W Bush, son of George H W Bush, is still alive together with his wife Laura, whom he married in 1977.  They celebrated their ruby wedding a few weeks back on 5th November.

Bill Clinton is also still alive, together with his rather more famous wife Hillary, who ran for President in 2016, winning the popular vote.  They married in 1975.

His predecessor, George H W Bush, and his wife Barbara, are, as I said above, still alive.

Before him came Ronald Reagan who died in 2004, and his second wife, Nancy, who died in 2016.

His predecessor, Jimmy Carter, is still alive, 37 years after being President, which is a record.  His wife Rosalynn is also alive, and they married in July 1946.

There are no other former Presidents or First Ladies alive.  Ivana Trump, and Maria Trump, former wives of the incumbent Donald Trump are still alive.

This minute

A minute is a short period of time.  But one minute can change your life.  In one minute, you can be told you are dying by a doctor.  In one minute, you discover you are going to be a parent.  In one minute a phone rings and you hear someone you love has died.  In one minute someone says "I love you" and it makes you the happiest person alive for that minute.  In one minute you find out that a friend has been false, and is no friend at all.  In one minute you get the exam results which change the future direction of your life.  In one minute your car veers off the road into a tree.

Every minute is important.  Every minute marks the boundary between what has been and what will be.  Yet most minutes pass by without note, and are never remembered.  Each minute lasts for sixty seconds.  Yet some rush by, and others pass with a painful throbbing countdown.  Some minutes mark boundaries, and those boundaries mark the chapters of the book of our lives. 

What are you doing this minute?

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Living Ex-Kings

King Michael I of Romania, who became king of Romania 90 years ago, and played a significant part in switching Romania from the Nazis to the Allied party in the Second World War, died this week aged 96.  He was a close relation of Prince Philip, and more distantly related to the Queen.  Together with Simeon II of Bulgaria, and the Dalai Lama, he was one of the last heads of state from the Second World War.

There are now only two monarchs left alive from the former monarchies of Europe:

  • Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who was, extraordinarily, elected as Prime Minister of Bulgaria in 2001.  He served as Simeon Sxe-Coburg-Gotha, being of the same line as our own royals.  He was Tsar from 1943, being deposed aged nine in 1946.
  • Constantine II of Greece, who was deposed in 1973.  He won a gold medal in sailing at the 1960 Olympics.


There are, of course, some former monarchs in Europe who abdicated: Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, Albert II of Belgium, Beatrix of the Netherlands, Juan Carlos of Spain, and Pope Ex-Benedict.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Honduras General Election

On Sunday 26th November, there will be a general election in Honduras.  For the first time ever, the incumbent President is standing - the constitution in Honduras limits presidents to single terms only.  Last year, the current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez of the right-wing National Party won a court hearing to allow him to stand again for the party-s leadership.  Those who campaign to reform the election law can lose their citizenship in Honduras, and, not surprisingly, the opposition parties say that his standing for re-election is unconstitutional.

Honduras is famously corrupt, and an anti-corruption party, Opposition Alliance Against Dictatorship  (PAC) was formed by popular TV presenter Salvador Nasralla.  This party has joined up with the main opposition left-wing Libre Party, and the smaller left-wing Innovation and Unity Party (PINU) to contest the election under the leadership of Mr Nasralla.

Polls suggest a closer election than that of 2013, but with Mr Hernandez still the favourite to win.

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Man On The Train - Part The Second

At Brockenhurst, the lady with the crutches got off, and a fair few passengers joined the nearly empty train.  A couple, in their early twenties, got on the train, and sat in the table opposite Keith.  He was tall and thin and had a backpack on.  She did too, and was wearing a woolly scarf, although it had not been a cold day.  I had my headphones on and was listening to some Preisner, so could not hear what was being said, but Keith was holding his chest, the young man was looking alarmed, and the young lady was looking disgusted.  The guard came along again and sat on the table opposite Keith and spoke to him.  I paused my music, and heard him offer to get help at Southampton Central, the next stop.  Keith said he felt quite unwell, but wanted to press on for London, and could always go to St Thomas’ Hospital where they knew him well, as he had had two heart attacks, and they had treated him there. 
The young girl got up and tugged at the man, and they trundled off to a different carriage.

At Southampton Central, a busy station, a lot of people got on the train, so that every table or row of seats was now occupied.  A rather rowdy looking group of young men, came on and sat in the table by Keith.  They had beer, and I was fearful lest there was going to be a particularly noisy outburst on the way home.  I hastily tuned into some rather lounder Beethoven to drown out any potential noises.
“Where are you boys off to?” asked Keith.
“We are going up to London for a party.  But we are starting now” answered one.  Keith gripped his chest,
“I am having some chest pains.  I have had two heart attacks, you know.”
The boys looked alarmed.
“Shall I get the guard for you?”
“No, he knows.  I am pressing on for London.”
“Perhaps a drink would help.  I have some lemonade – it will be sweet, and that is good for you, and we have some ice.  The cold on your chest might help”.  They poured out some lemonade, and one of the lads offered him a packet of crisps, while another one produced a Mars bar.  Keith sat happily nibbling and sipping away, and I marvelled at the kindness of these rowdy boys, whom I had regarded so balefully when they first boarded the train.  They were chatting away very kindly, and Keith looked very happy.

The train was on diversion, so ran down through Fareham and Havant before heading up the line to Guidlford.  We stopped at Haslemere for about ten minutes – on the platform, but not as a station call.  Keith expressed concern that the delay could be dangerous if he was taken ill before we reached Waterloo, and accepted a small beer from the group of young men, reminding them that a little beer was good for the digestion and the heart.  I was engrossed in my book, and it was dark, so I had nothing to look at outside the window.  The journey seemed quite slow, and I read without paying much attention to proceedings, until we called at Surbiton.

I was rather irked to be calling at Surbiton.  Why would an express train from Weymouth stop at such an insignificant commuter station?  Surbiton is a busy station normally, but I did not consider it necessary for express trains to stop there.  I was musing this when the carriage broke out in song!  Keith and the lads were singing:
“One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock
Five, six, seven o’clock, eight o’clock rock….”
This all looked very merry, and the initial looks of concern and annoyance from all in the carriage, distracted as they were from their laptops, kindles, ‘phones and books, soon turned to the knowing shared smile that English folk have, which is used to declare
“I am a little bit annoyed at these proceedings, but I cannot help finding it mildly amusing in a patronising way, and am most anxious that it be not thought that I have a poor sense of humour”.

By the time we reached Clapham Junction, Keith was inviting us all to “twist again, like we did last summer” while the bemused lads, who clearly did not know that song, looked on and cheered.  Keith was in very lively form, and seemed to have recovered quite well from his malaise of earlier.  It was late as we approached Waterloo, and I was tired.  Part of me wanted to see what happened as they all alighted – would Keith try to go with the lads?  But I hastened to alight and make a swift journey to the tube, surmising I would be home in time to watch an episode of a serial I was following on DVD. 


I suppose Keith may well have felt uncomfortable and out of breath at the start of his journey, but, given the guard’s familiarity with him, and his recovery after being offered most unsuitable drinks, I suspect he was more concerned to have company.  I still feel a little mean in having spurned his efforts, especially given the better example of the young lads who had boarded at Southampton Central, but I suspect he had a much better time in their company than either he, or I, would have suffered in mine.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

500th Anniversary of the Reformation

On Wednesday 31st October 1517, a lowly monk, Martin Luther, trundled up to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nailed a document detailing 95 Theses, or more properly A Disputation on the Power of Indulgences, to the door, and started off the series of religious, social, and political revolutions now known as the Reformation.  Let us ignore the fact that he may not have nailed them to the door, if he did it may not have been on that date, and that he was a professor of moral theology, and that he almost certainly did not envisage or intend such a revolution.  The fact is that the Reformation is enormously important in theological, social, and political terms, and its effects are felt even today.

The Reformation is seen in all sorts of ways.  Some see it as the glorious rediscovery of gospel truths, long smothered by a corrupt Catholic Church, a new Gospel Age after the darkness of the Middle Ages.  Others see it as a consequence and fulfilment of the Renaissance, with the shackles of Christendom thrown off, and as a precursor to the Enlightenment.  For others it is a social revolution, where the people can take hold of their own destiny, no longer subject to the hierarchies of church and state.  Others see a political movement afoot, where states formed new leagues and hegemonies, and the increasing dominance of Protestant northern Europe against the old powers of southern Europe, bolstering trade with a new ethic of work, and where kings and dukes controlled religion themselves, rather than Rome.  Others yet see it as the splintering of Christianity, with new groups and sects setting up, splitting the church, and causing wars and community breakdown that exists to this day.

There is some truth in all of these.  But for me, the single most important aspect of the Reformation is that it asserted the truth that the state of a soul is not a matter for the church, but a matter between man and God.  This is illustrated well in the matter of indulgences, the issue which sparked the Reformation.  The Catholic Church differentiates between mortal sin, worthy of eternal punishment, which can only be dealt with through penance, and venial sin, which must be punished for the purification of the soul, normally in Purgatory.  Indulgences[1] were a way of lessening the punishment of these venial sins.  Put simply, indulgences can purchase additional purification from these sins, lessening the time spent in Purgatory.  These can be purchased by good deeds, or by pledging money to the church, especially for dedicating new churches.  St Peters in the Vatican was built from the proceeds of Indulgences.  Indulgences could also be purchased for souls of the dead.  Needless to say, a huge and corrupt trade in indulgences grew up, and was the subject of much criticism towards the end of the Middle Ages.  There was a verse “As soon as the money in the coffer rings, that soul from purgatory’s fire springs”.

The whole issue is that the Catholic Church had effectively set themselves up as gate-keepers of the faith, and were deciding who was, and who was not, “in”, and was selling places in heaven.  The Reformation’s assertion that justification[2] was based on faith, not works, removed any man from being able to be the keeper of another man’s soul.  Gone is “Christendom” where the church ceases to be the worshipping community of Christians, and becomes a power in its own right.  Gone are the rights of priests to stand between humanity and God.  Gone is the sale of salvation.

The Reformation has had ill effects – there have been centuries of religious wars in Europe, the effects of which still rumble on in Northern Ireland.  From Calvin’s Geneva, through the 1662 Act of Uniformity, through to the over-reaching political aspirations of various Christian groups in the USA today, many reformed churches have hankered after the old powers of Christendom, and the desire to include and exclude at will.  Many reformed churches have abandoned good works altogether, failing to understand the biblical injunction that “faith without works is dead”. 

Yet for all this, the Reformation is something to be celebrated.  Today, we are permitted to read the Bible and can read it in our own language.  No man or institution holds the keys of heaven, and can lock us in or out.  The claims of the gospel are held out to us, and we may each respond without permission or payment.  No longer is truth the property of any man.  Truly, things have been re-formed!



[1] There was a Very Good sermon at my church on Luther and indulgences on 22nd October.  I shall provide a link when it is available.
[2] Being made “right with God”

Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Man on the Train

As the part of the train starting in Bournemouth pulled up, I went well up to the front, and waited by a door; it was my intention to travel in the quiet carriage, a very necessary precaution on such a long journey.  A little man approached and stood close by to me.  I inspected him out of the corner of my eye – he was a short fairly plump man, smartly dressed in a green tweed jacket and trousers with a lambswool brown jumper, check shirt, and tie.  He had little hair, being completely bald on the top of his head, but with short dark hair, with a short curl around the back and sides.  He was, I guess, in his mid to late fifties, and had a slight twinkle in his eye, rather reminding me of a short and plump version of Christopher Lillicrap.  I rather liked him, in the distant way necessary for those one meets on journeys.  He looked at his watch and tutted and then looked meaningfully at me.  It was exactly the time the train was due to depart. 
“Oh,” I said, “they won’t open the doors until the other part of the train arrives from Bournemouth.  I think it is running a minute or two late.  Once it gets here, they will attach it and let us on”.
“I am going to London,”he answered “Where are you going?”  I was slightly taken aback by the directness of the question. 
“London as well.”  I replied slightly curtly in order to convey a reluctance to converse, while still being polite.
“Do you live there?  I do.  I just came down for the day.  I went to Boscombe.  I walked there.  It seemed nice in parts, but I think I like Bournemouth better.  What are you doing for Christmas?”  Here was a rather dangerous question.  Clearly this man was rather eccentric, and I could see I would have difficulty in avoiding him.
“I have not really thought about it yet”, I answered rather untruthfully.
“I am coming down here.  I like it here.  It will be nicer than London.  I like the idea of having Christmas at the coast, and I have never had the opportunity to do it.  I have been thinking about it all year, and finally decided to do it.  I do hope it is the right thing.”  He stopped talking and clutched the right lower side of his chest.
“Are you alright?”
“I am having some chest pains.  I have had two heart attacks you know.”
“Oh, I should think it is not a heart attack.  It is the wrong side of the chest.  Perhaps you suffer from angina, or have you overdone it today?”  I felt mildly alarmed, but it seemed that there was nothing majorly wrong.  The other part of the train approached the platform. 
“Oh yes, I get angina sometimes.  And I did rush here from the beach to get the train.  I think I was too fast.  That must be it.”
“Do you have some tablets or spray for your angina?”
“I have GTN spray for under my tongue, but that never helps.  I will just have to get by and hope it is nothing major.”
“Well, maybe you should use the spray, as it might help.  Perhaps it would be good to sit down and rest and see how you are before you get the next train.”  I felt fairly sure there was nothing wrong with him, but was vaguely worried, and, I am ashamed to say, more worried at the prospect of having this man talk to me on a two hour forty five minute journey.  As the trains coupled with a jolt, I was wondering if I would be able to put my headphones on in an effort to dissuade him.  The train doors opened, and I stepped back and gestured for him to get on first.
He got on and started to make for the right.
“Which way are you going?” he asked.  I hastily turned to the carriage on my left (not my first choice!) and answered
“I was going this way.”  To my horror, he turned and followed.  I hastened into the carriage and took a seat in an airline arrangement further up the carriage.  He stopped and sat at a table setting about four rows away.  This was excellent – we would not be able to talk (and I put my unwanted headphones on to ensure this was the case), but I could see him, and hasten to his aid if he did appear to take ill.  Furthermore, a woman with a crutch came and sat on the table opposite him.
Feeling vaguely guilty lest he really was ill, and also for rebuffing his attempts to be friendly, I managed to find some music I felt in the mood for (Elgar’s Music Makers) and turned to the book I had started reading – A Room With a View.  The irony of reading this book at that time was not lost on my, and I felt myself wondering how Miss Bartlett would have dealt with such a passenger.  I could see him chatting to the woman quite a bit, and pitied her a little. 
The train was fairly quiet.  A rather prim young woman, who had hugged a man who looked like her father had got on with a small vanity case of the sort I thought had vanished decades ago.  She opened it and took out a make-up case, and began liberally applying make-up.  The man and woman were chatting as the guard came along, and I paused my music to hear what was happening.
“This man is having chest pains”.  The guard stopped and sat down.
“I remember you – you were taken ill on the train near Basingstoke” he said.  I realised that perhaps this man was a repeat offender.  He sat there holding his chest.
“I have some tea in my flask.  Would you like some?”  The woman took a flask out.
The guard asked the man if he wanted him to arrange help for him at Brockenhurst, but the man refused and said he wanted to get home to London.
“I am going to Brockenhurst” said the woman.  “I can keep an eye on him.”
The guard told them to be sure to summon him, or use the passenger alarm if the man worsened, and said he would look in on the man, who said, disappointingly, that his name was Keith.  Keith sat sipping tea and looking sorry for himself, while the woman looked very worried indeed.  I decided to keep quite an eye on things, rehearsing in my mind what I would do if he collapsed.

To be continued..........

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

A Close Shave at the Barber's

Today I went to the barber for a beard trim.  I do this about three times a year, often when I have let my beard get a bit too long.  The barber trims it very well, and it feels so tidy afterwards.  It is a fiver well-spent, and stops me feeling guilty for only having my hair cut twice a year (which my poor barber complains that if every customer were like me, he would be out of business http://thebanburyman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/lambing-2012-prep.html )

I turned up, and the two brothers were sitting chatting.  My favourite one got up and directed me to his sation.
"Just a beard trim today", I said.
"Ah, I thought your hair was too short.  I only cut it a few weeks ago.  I hoped you had decided to become a regular customer".
I settled down as he wrapped me up, put up the special head-rest for beard-trimming, and readied the trimmer.
"All off?" he asked, to my horror.  He had clearly misunderstood!
"Oh no, just a trim, nice and short and tidy.  If you take it all off, there will be nothing for you to trim nex time.  A 3mm cut please!"

What a narrow escape!  Needless to say, I had my trim, got given some beard oil, and hurried on my way.  I shall be careful to be much more explicit next time.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Song for Saturday - One Voice

Here is a song for Saturday.  I have always enjoyed harmony, and this particular tune, the single of which was owned by one of my sisters, haunted my musical mind a lot when I was young.  I don't think I have heard it in a long long time.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Capricious Pasta Sauce

This is a different pasta souce.  You will not ladle this onto your pasta.  When you sample it while cooking, you will agree it is too herby, too salty, too spicy, too rich, too fishy.  It is capricious.

It is a sauce for mixing with pasta, to leave a comparatively dry mix.  Here is my rough recipe:

1.  Put your pasta on.  It needs to go into boiling water, with a little oil added to stop it sticking.  Do not add salt - this is an unnecessary addition favoured by chefs who oversalt everything.  Use any shape, but it works really well with twists or spirals.  Use a 500g bag.

2.  Chop an onion and soften it in oil.

3.  Add lots of garlic.

4.  Add a small tin of anchovies in oil, cut up, oil and all.

5.  Add a good dash of chilli flakes.

6.  Add a good shake of dried basil.

7.  Add a really big squirt of tomato puree.

8.  Add a tin of chopped tomatoes.

9.  Add a teaspoon of sugar, and a big grinding of black pepper.

10.  Add a handful of green pitted olives (I usually leave them whole).

11.  Add a couple of teaspoons of capers.

12.  Add a can of tuna fish (drained).

13.  Cook until the pasta is done.  Drain the pasta, but keep a good slosh of the the water.

14.  Mix the pasta in.  Add a bit of the water to slacken it slightly.

15.  Eat.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.


Friday, 4 August 2017

Queens and Prince Corsorts....

Prince Henrik of Denmark, husband of Queen Margrethe II, was in the news this week for saying he did not wish to be buried with his wife in Roskilde Cathedral, traditional burial place of the Danish royals.  He has, for some years, been unhappy at his role and title, even fleeing to southern France in 2002, protesting at being put behind his son, Crown Prince Frederik, in a ceremony.  Clearly, Prince Henrik is, perhaps, more sensitive than most about this issue, but it does highlight a curious anomaly.

When a male monarch, a king, has a wife, she is the queen, more specifically, a queen consort.  However, the husband of a queen in suo jure (in her own right) is not a king.  He is usually made a prince, and can be granted the title of Prince Consort, as Prince Albert had, and Prince Henrik himself enjoyed, resigning this position a couple of years ago.

Queen Mary II of England and Scotland did not want her husband to be a mere Prince, so made him joint monarch as William III - which, given their accession by revolution, and his close claim on the throne, worked well.  But Queen Anne's husband was just Prince George, and, in our own day, the Duke of Edinburgh is Prince Philip.

In the Iberian peninsula, male consorts are generally king consorts.  Isabella II of Spain married her cousin Francisco, and he was King Consort.  Similarly, Ferdinand, husband of Maria II of Portugal, was also King Consort (Isabella I and Maria I had both married men who were kings in their own right).  But this has never caught on elsewhere.

It seems to me that this inequality should be put right.  Furthermore, with more and more European nations adopting absolute primogeniture, where the oldest child, irrespective of sex, inherits, we will be having more queens than in previous history.  Indeed, the heirs to the thrones of Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain are all female.  Prince Henrik has spoken more boldly on this issue than many, but it seems clear that the rules, for once, favour women over men, when they are monarchical consorts.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Charlie Gard

For the last couple of months, the tragic case of Charlie Gard has been in the news here in the UK.  The 11 month old has encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, a rare disease, that has left him unable to move or breathe, and with severe incurable brain damage.  He has been at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the foremost pædiatric hospital in the UK, and doctors concluded that there is nothing more that can be done, that he may well be in pain, and that life support should be turned off.  His parents contest this and have raised over a million pounds to take him to the USA for experimental treatment.

You can read more of the ins and outs of the case in the link I give above.  I just want to say at this point, that I simply cannot imagine the grief and despair of his poor parents in all this.  They have a child who is terribly sick, and they fear losing him.  I had a cousin who lost a young son to a different mitochondrial disease, and it was simply heart-breaking.  I also want to say I deplore the attempts of the various interest campaigns to use this family as part of their cultural wars.  The "Christian" Defence Coalition, and even the Pope and Donald Trump have all, unhelpfully, intervened, and muddied the waters with their grubby attempts to exploit this family.

I do, however, wish to weigh in and make two points here.  First, I do think there has been a failure in care by GOSH.  By that, I mean in their care of young Charlie's parents.  At some point, communication has broken down and been replaced by distrust.  How did that happen  Did a specialist not take care in explaining a stage of Charlie's illness?  Was a consultant a bit patronising or dismissive of questions?  Did a doctor appear in haste, and not take time to hear the concerns of Charlie's parents?  Something happened to allow mistrust to grow to the point that the two sides are so far removed they are acting against one another in court.

Secondly, and I want to say this with compassion, parents do not always know best.  The fact that they have been put into such a tragic situation does not allow Charlie's parents the trump card in knowing and deciding what to do.  If parents knew best, doctors would be altogether unnecessary.  GOSH is a world-class hospital.  The doctors on this case are formidable experts in their field.  Expert advice, despite what Michael Gove asserted in the Brexit arguments, ought not be ignored.  Sometimes, an expert consultant knows what is best for a child, rather than a parent without medical knowledge, and with all the distractions of their emotional involvement and pain.

In all of this, a young life of suffering continues, and is artificially prolonged until the arguments are settled.  At the heart of all the discussions must be what is in the best interests of that young life.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Abdication now allowed for Japan's Emperor

A law has just been passed in Japan that will allow the Emperor to abdicate within the next three years.  Emperor Akihito, who is 83. has had significant health problems, Although modernised and having only a constitutional role since the Imperial Laws at the end of the Second World War, the Chrysanthemum Throne is still bound by many traditions.  Akihito is the 125th of his dynasty to rule Japan, and has been Emperor since death of his father Showa (known in his lifetime as Hirohito) in 1989.

The law says the Emperor must abdicate in the next three years, and it is believed he will step down in December 2018.  He will be the first Emperor to abdicate since Kokuku in 1817.  The Crown Prince Naruhito will succeed.

The Imperial Family of Japan was shrunk in 1947 to include only the male line descendants of Taisho, Akihito's grandfather.  Princesses may only marry members of the Imperial Family, and now there are no collateral branches, they must leave the Imperial Family, and lose their title when they marry.  Akihito's five sisters and his daughter all did this.  As women may not inherit the Throne, this means that there is only the Crown Prince, another son, and grandson of Akihito, and his brother left to succeed.  Prince Hisahito, who is 11, is the only one under fifty, and there has been a call to chain the Succession Laws to allow a woman to succeed, or even to allow succession to pass through the female line, although this is controversial as the 2000 year old dynasty has, hitherto, only passed through the male line, although allowing occasional Empresses.

If young Hisahito has no children, or only daughters, he could, in fifty years' time, be the only member of the Imperial Family.  Change is needed in this most traditional of monarchies.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Election 2017 - a difficult decision

Today, the UK goes to the polls in a General Election it did not want, and which its Prime Minister, Theresa May, had repeated said she would not call.  I have struggled greatly knowing how to vote:

1.  I could not possibly vote Tory.  I never have, and cannot imagine how I ever will.  Theresa May is seeking a hard Brexit, and has stood aloof from our European friends (promising to be a "difficult women" at the negotiations) while sucking up to Donald Trump.  She has continued to pursue austerity, winding down the NHS and education, and now promises to restrict human rights laws as a response to terrorist activity.

2.  I could not possibly vote Labour.  Jeremy Corbyn is incapable, tolerates antisemitism in the party, and campaigned lukewarmly in the EU Referendum, before lying supine before Mrs May's hard Brexit agenda.  Furthermore, his followers and disciples on social media are either rabid dogs who will insult me as Tory Zionist vermin for criticising him, or middle-class metropolitan types who believe he wold win, if only not for the BBC being biased against him.

3.  Maybe I could vote for the Lib Dems - they are the one major national party who are standing up for the 48% who did not vote for Brexit, and who want the population to vote on the deal reached.

But then I read the manifestos.  I liked Labour and the Lib Dem.

But then I thought about my constituency - only Labour has any chance of evicting the Tory here.  Furthermore, the Labour candidate is a Jew who has called Corbyn out on his tolerance of antisemitism, and he is a strong remainer.

But then I thought about the USA, and my annoyance with those on the left who felt they could not stomach Hillary Clinton, so either didn't vote, or squandered their vote on minor parties, so that Donald Trump won.

So, holding my nose a little, I shall vote Labour.  Corbyn is useless indeed, but more palatable than May.  Even a Corbyn-led government would not be as strongly Brexit as May's government.

I voted this morning.  I think the best way to vote in this election is to vote for the party with the best chance of evicting the Tories, and I hope you agree and will vote likewise.  But, above all, please do vote, especially if you are under 40.  Enough people did not vote in the last election to have significantly altered the result.  Not voting is an acceptance of the status quo.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A Civilised Society

Ian Brady died yesterday.  One of the most notorious criminals in British history, he, together with his fiancee, Myra Hindley, tortured and murdered five children in the 1960's.  Much has been written and said about how someone could do such terrible things.  Much has been said in anger and hatred of Brady, and I understand that, but believe there is a better reaction.

A Farcebook friend who is a psychologist, said this of those who provided care for him in the mental hospital where he has been interred for the last years of his sentence:
I notice a lot of bile is being spilt over the death of one man today.  I ask we all pause for thought for all the professions who, day in day out, overcome their own feelings in order to provide care and compassion in the face of public hatred.
This, for me, strikes the right note.  Today is not the day for hatred and anger.  Today is the day to remember that, although a man did much wickedness, society did not descend to his level.

I commented thus:
A mark of a civilised society, and professional health care workers, is that care is provided to all.  He was, undoubtedly, a wicked man who did not recognise the rights of others, yet, as a human being, he deserved professional care.  I am grateful to those who do a job most of us would shrink from.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Iranian Presidential Election

Iran has a general election on Friday 19th May.  There is a very complicated set-up in Iran as follows:

The Supreme Leader of Iran is the 87 year old Ali Khameini, who has been head of state since 1989 (following the more well-known Ayatollah Khomeini).  He also served as President from 1981-89.

The Supreme Leader is appointed by 88 members of the Assembly of Experts.

The Assembly of Experts is appointed by the Guardian Council.

The Guardian Council consists of 12 members - six Islamic experts appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six jurists elected by Parliament.

The Parliament is known as the Consultative Assembly, which is elected by the general population every four years.

Candidates for President must be approved by the Guardian Council.  For the 2017 election, 1,636 people applied to be candidate, including 137 women.  The Guardian Council rejected all but six, and one of the approved candidates later stood down to support another candidate.  The five candidates are:


  • Mostafa Hashemitaba for the right wing Executives of Construction
  • Eshaq Jahangri, also for the Executives of Construction
  • Mostafa Mir-Salim for the right wing Islamic Coalition Party
  • Ebrahim Raisi for the right wing Combatant Clergy Party (can you imagine such a party anywhere else?) and
  • Hassan Rouhani, President since 2013, for the Moderation and Development Party


Polls currently show President Rouhani on 55% with the others trailing a long way behind.  He is considered a moderate, and has even made some moves towards increased rights for women.  Four former Presidents of Iran are alive, including the first President, Abolhassan Banisadr who was in office from 1980 until his impeachment in 1981.  He is 84 years old.

The Bahamas General Election

On 10th May, The Bahamas had a general election.  This island nation is a Commonwealth realm which became independent in 1973, but which retains Elizabeth II as monarch.  There were 39 seats up for grabs (an increase of since the general election of 2012).  The centre-left governing Progressive Liberal Party under Perry Christie held 29 of the seats, and the centre-right Free National Movement under Hubert Minnis held 9 of the seats, as they went into the election.

These have been fractious times in The Bahamas.  The opposition FNM has been in disarray - dismissing its leader in December 2016 amidst party in-fighting, and re-appointing him in April, just before the election.  The governing PLP has been scandal-ridden, amidst charges over the late Anna Nicole Smith and her residency in The Bahamas, which was granted at a time when the Immigration Minister was one of her lovers.  Although she died in 2007, the scandal has had considerable effect on the standing of the PLP.

In the elections, a complete change of fortune occurred - the PLP went down from 29 seats to just 4, with the FNM increased from 9 to 35 of the seats, a considerable majority.

As a kingdom overseas of Elizabeth II, Governors-General are appointed to administer the realm on her behalf.  Of the eleven The Bahamas have had, 9 have lived to be over eighty, and five are still alive, the youngest of whom is 87.  The current Governor-General is Dame Marguerite Pindling, widow of Lynden Pindling, who was Prime Minister from 1969-1992, presiding over independence in 1973.  Apart from the out-going Perry Christie, the only other living former Prime Minister is Hubert Ingraham.

Monday, 8 May 2017

South Korean General Election

While much of Europe has been following the French general election, tomorrow's election in South Korea has received little attention.

Park Geung-hye was the first woman to be elected President in South Korea, coming to power in 2013.  Mrs Park's term was due to end in December of this year, but, in March, she was impeached for peddling influence, in a scandal reminiscent of the Cash for Questions troubles of the 1990's here in the UK.  Mrs Park led the centre-right Saenuri Party.

The election was therefore brought forward, and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn has declined to stand.  The polls indicate a decent lead for Moon Jae-in, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party.

Mr Moon's election could have some international repercussions.  Mrs Park was very anti-North Korea, whereas the Democratic Party of Mr Moon favour a more conciliatory approach.  With Mr Trump of the USA attempting to stir up conflict, this could have an emollient effect on the region.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

2017 Election Prediction

As usual, I am making my election predictions.  I did this in 2010 (nearly right) and 2015 (wrong).  This is not a picture of what I want, but of what, at this point, I think likely, given what is happening with polls and the news, and looking up some marginal seats etc.  I have previously generally under-estimated the Tory vote, which might be dangerous in this election.  I shall have more to say about the election in subsequent posts, but here is my prediction

SNP 45 seats
Down 11, losing 10 to the Tories, and 1 to the Lib Dems.

Lib Dems 25 seats
Mainly gained from Labour and Tories.  I feel very uncertain about this figure and think their fortunes could change a lot, one way or the other, according to how the campaign rolls out.

Plaid Cymru 4 seats
A gain from Labour.

Green 1 seat
Holding onto their Brighton seat.  I did wonder if they might pick up Bristol, where they challenged Labour before, but I think the Tories will sweep up that seat.

Irish Parties 18 seats
I think there will be a movement towards Sinn Fein.

UKIP
They will lose their seat.

Labour 160 seats
They will lose 72 seats, and end up just worse off than the Tories in 1997.  This could go 20+ either way.  They will be somewhat protected by the fact they start (and end) with nothing in Scotland, and the fact that the safest seats in the country are Labour.

Conservatives 397 seats
Just short of Labour's victory in 1997.

Result - a Conservative majority of 144

As we mark 20 years since 1997, we see a complete reversal in fortunes.

Note added on 8th June
Given the movements of the polls during this campaign, I revise this to a Conservative majority of 56 - but feel quite uncertain about it.  If I am right, it shows the squandering of a significant lead by Mrs May.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Brexit Chronicles: March-December 2017

March 2017
On 29th March, Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, formally invokes Article 50, giving the EU two years' notice that the UK is leaving the EU.  In the letter, May threatens to withdraw from co-operating on security matters if a suitable trading deal is not reached.  The EU reject the threats, and also reject May's suggestion that trade agreements can be made before the withdrawal agreement is made.

April 2017
The Eu declares that Spain must have a veto on any matter affecting Gibraltar in the negotiations.  Former Tory leader Michael Howard goes on TV and says that Britain is prepared for war.  After border patrols are strengthened at Gibraltar, Spain introduces security and customs checks for all persons and goods crossing the border, resulting in huge delays.
The run-off election in Ecuador is won by Lasso, and he immediately expels Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.  Assange is arrested and extradited to Sweden.
In the French election, Marine Le Pen nearly wins the election, sending shockwaves throughout Europe.  A run-off is between her and pro-EU Emmanuel Macron is scheduled for May.
Nigel Farage is appointed as Campaign Manager for Marine Le Pen and moves to Paris.  Bromley Council throws a Street Party on his departure.
Theresa May writes to Nicola Sturgeon, refusing to allow a referendum on Scottish independence before the UK has left the EU, and before the next UK wide general election in 2020.

May 2017
The UK local elections are held on 4th May.  Labour's vote collapses, and the Lib Dems make significant gains, taking two councils from the Tories, and becoming the largest party in fifteen other councils. The right wing vote is split between the Tories and UKIP.
Macron wins the French election by a tiny margin, to the relief of many in Europe.
Boris Johnson announces that EU citizens will not have the right to remain in the UK after 2019 if Spain keeps its veto on Gibraltar.  The EU calls his bluff, and agrees that there will be no right of residence for EU citizens in the UK or UK citizens in the EU.
Douglas Carswell agrees to resign and force a by-election in Clacton-on-Sea.  He will stand as a Conservative candidate.  Paul Nuttall of UKIP will stand as the UKIP candidate.

June 2017
Nigel Farage is arrested in Paris on charges of electoral fraud amid revelations that UKIP donors had sent millions of pounds to Marine Le Pen, supporting her candidature in the hope she would lead France out of the EU.
Russia annexes Armenia, and signs a trade deal with the USA.  President Trump threatens to withdraw from NATO if there are further protests.
Douglas Carswell wins the Clacton by-election for the Conservatives, with Paul Nuttall for UKIP losing his deposit.  Nuttall resigns as leader of UKIP.

July 2017
Tom Watson resigns as Deputy Leader of Labour.  Unable to find a candidate who receives the support of 20% of the MP's, Jeremy Corbyn announces that he will continue without a leader until the conference in September.
Theresa May shuffles the Cabinet.  Boris Johnson is sacked, and Jacob Rees-Mogg is appointed as Foreign Secretary.  Among minor ministerial ranks, Euro-sceptics are brought in, replacing those who had campaigned on the Remain Side.
In Sweden, Julian Assange is found guilty of rape and sentenced to 15 years in jail.  USA applies for an extradition warrant.

August 2017
All the members of the SNP and Green parties in the Scottish Parliament form a new "Scottish Independence Party" and resign en masse, forcing by-elections.  A week later, the SNP members of the Westminster Parliament also resign.  The by-elections will be held at the beginning of October.

September 2017
Nigel Farage is acquitted of charges relating the the French election, and is banned from France.  He becomes leader of UKIP at their annual conference.
Two days before the Labour Conference, Jeremy Corbyn announces he is going on a sabbatical retreat for a month, and appoints Diane Abbott as interim leader.
The Chancellor states that the UK will pay no money at all to the EU.

October 2017
The new SIP win all their Scottish Parliament and UK Parliament by-elections with increased majorities.  The Conservatives and Labour lose their deposits in every single election.  Nicola Sturgeon writes to Theresa May requesting a referendum on Scottish independence.

November 2017
Donald Trump pays a State Visit to the UK.  During the visit, the Queen is taken ill, and, with the Prince of Wales away on a visit to Canada, Mr Trump is received by the Duchess of Gloucester.  On a visit to Birmingham, nearly two million people take part in a demonstration against his visit.
Theresa May announces a new trade deal with India, but with freedom of movement between India and the UK starting in January
Donald Trump visits Moscow and announces a new trade agreement with Russia.

December 2017
Julian Assange is murdered in prison in Sweden by an American agent.  The EU (except Britain) recalls their ambassadors from the USA.
The cold weather forces the NHS into crisis, and the government strikes a deal with the USA to outsource treatment to private US companies.  All non-urgent operations are cancelled until May.
Anna Soubry defects to the Lib Dems, and forces a by-election which she wins easily.
Nigel Farage says in a party political broadcast, that the UK should close its border to India, and deport Indians back to India.