A limerick a week #208

How low can you go?

‘How low can you go’ used to be the audience chant at limbo dance competitions. Now it is the astonished proclamation of the less-sociopathic politicos and media outlets in the UK as it appears, from this week’s news, that Boris Johnson, Donald Trump’s wannabe ‘Mini Me’ and the yes men and press men of the UK’s right wing cabal think it’s okay to break international law in pursuit of their nationalistic political ends. 

The Conservative party has been more than willing to garner votes through nationalistic and xenophobic ‘populism’, but there have been honourable exceptions, like this (that I’ve quoted before), from the former conservative government minister, David Gauke:

“A willingness by politicians to say what they think the public want to hear, and a willingness by large parts of the public to believe what they are told by populist politicians, has led to a deterioration in our public discourse.”

“Rather than recognising the challenges of a fast-changing society require sometimes complex responses, that we live in a world of trade-offs, that easy answers are usually false answers, we have seen the rise of the simplifiers.”

“In deploying this sort of language, we go to war with truth.”

Well, it seems that we are now at war not only with the truth, but also with legality and judicial oversight.

Not only is the current UK government seeking to limit the scope of judicial review over its actions, simply as a result of the UK Supreme Court ruling that the Government’s decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks in 2019 was unlawful, but it is even willing to acknowledge in Parliament that it is putting forward legislation that it knows is in breach of international law.

I’d like to think that most British people would be horrified by this prospect, but as with nationalistic pursuits through the 20th century and into the current millennium, it seems there some, too many, who are more than happy to dispense with any veneer of decency that would otherwise coat them.

That it is happening in the UK now is down to those right wing politicians and their media taskmasters who choose to point the finger of blame for any of the public’s woes at minorities and immigrants instead of at their self-interested pursuit of political dogma-dressed-up-as-austerity since the 2007-2008 financial crisis (itself a product of the business and financial deregulation propounded by the Voodoo economics of Ronald Reagan).

When a government knowingly puts forward unlawful legislation, when it seeks to deny judicial oversight, and when its public accepts it without demur because of entrained and xenophobic nationalism then  at that point, society has become diseased.

Albert Einstein experienced it personally and it led him to say that “Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind”. It truly is. Unfortunately Johnson and his cronies are now no more than the vectors and political ‘anti-vaxxers’ for this particular disease.

When you thought that it couldn’t get worse
The Tories, it seems, aren’t averse
To breaking the law
With a ‘screw you!’ guffaw.
Those f**kits are wholly perverse!

Postscript: Worrying, isn’t it, that the Brexit nationalists wanted to do away with legal oversight from the European Court of Justice so they could get back ‘our sovereignty’, only to call out British judges in the UK’s (sovereign) Supreme Court for meddling in politics whenever they simply uphold UK domestic law that is inconvenient to the nationalist agenda. Subsequently to seek to prevent future judicial review of governmental actions is Trumpian hubris writ large – precisely the same sort of hubris that interpreted a non-binding referendum on EU membership to be binding and that now sees a treaty signed under international law to be non-binding. 

Not worried yet? You should be!


That most paradoxical of things

Another coincidence… 

… they should never happen, but they always do.

The day after I posted a limerick that looked back at a canal cruise last year aboard the narrowboat Rachel, I played late-night-catch-up for a TV programme that I’d recorded but had yet to watch. It was about the building of the Grand Union canal.

And guess what? Of the 38,000 currently licensed narrowboats in the UK, the programme featured the presenter aboard the very same boat that we had hired. It’s a small world.

Our narrowboat “Rachel” moored in the centre of Stratford.


… and on the Lapworth Link, a short branch that connects the Grand Union and South Stratford canals where they ‘kiss’ at Kingswood Junction.


… and now it’s on the tele!


Worth another look…


I was apalled to see Nigel Farage wearing an over-sized poppy in the run-up to Rememberance Day. His were not the values that so many lost their lives for.

So, why not click on the headlines, below, for a reminder of the life of a man who served in two world wars, a peace-loving, true gentleman and internationalist; a man that was the polar opposite of those whom the Scottish actor Brian Cox has described as “The opportunistic clowns of Brexit, Gove, Johnson and the little Englander Farage and the feudalist Rees-Mogg”.

The eleventh of the eleventh

The eleventh of the eleventh plus one

A limerick a week #119

“A Chancellor who will be judged harshly by history”[1]

It’s a serious one this week, I’m afraid, and it was Osborne wot made me do it…

Anyone that read ALAW #116 will have been left with the advice that “sometimes the first thing you have to do is to suspend belief and the second thing you do is to suspend disbelief”.

I had to do that just a couple of days before Christmas when listening to George Osborne on the radio. He had the brass-neck to deny that his blueprint for austerity after the Tories’ election victory in 2010 had any rôle to play in the UK’s current homelessness crisis. Instead, he blamed ‘bad policy’.

Er, that would be policy related to housing, benefits and council services then? Policies that he and his chums in the Conservative Party have imposed on the UK over the last eight years!

And what was Osborne’s great contribution to housing policy? Well, from the Independent newspaper’s analysis it was this: In the end, aggressive monetary loosening from the Bank of England came to the economy’s rescue, along with one the Chancellor’s very worst policies, a “Help To Buy” scheme that stimulated consumer confidence in 2013 but only at the terrible price of perpetuating the country’s housing disaster. (See this, from the Guardian, to understand why.)

Homelessness not enough? Then how about the prison crisis, a crisis led by “budget cuts, poor political decisions and frequent changes of political direction” according to a former  Director-General of HM Prison Service. Or the crisis in special educational needs provision that is directly attributable to cuts in local government funding? Or the crisis in social care for vulnerable adults? Or the crisis in support for young people presenting with mental health issues? Or the wider NHS crisis with the lowest per capita number of doctors, nurses or beds in the western world?

Osborne’s political manoeuvre was to masquerade his ideological cuts to public services as austerity. “Money doesn’t grow on trees” was the ideologues’ battle cry! Except it did if you were a banker, with £435 billion ‘spent’ up to August 2016 on ‘aggressive monetary loosening’, so-called ‘quantitative easing’ (‘printing money’ in old parlance), to bail out the banks after their affair with the sort of casino capitalism engendered by Thatcher’s deregulation of the 1980s.

And it is Thatcher’s ideological experiment in neo-liberalism that has since been fostered by the likes of Osborne and his Bullingdon Club cronies.

“Trickle-down”, they said when “flood up” was what they meant and the great British public swallowed it hook, line and sinker; its 30 pieces of silver transformed during the 1980s into a few measly shares in British Gas or a short-lived and quickly spent windfall from building society de-mutualisations to be followed by a global financial collapse sponsored by sub-prime free-market think-tanks.

An austere political trope
Left the homeless with nary a hope,
So let no-one deny
That censure must lie
On the shoulders of Osborne the Dope!

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/george-osborne-a-chancellor-who-will-be-judged-harshly-by-history-a7135571.html

A limerick a week #100

The most pathetic cycling event ever!

Cyclists in and around Aberdeen got rather excited when it was first revealed they would have the opportunity to ride the pristine tarmac of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route before its opening to vehicular traffic (after which bikes will be banned from it).

But to demonstrate that the road’s sponsor, Transport Scotland, comprises a bunch of pillocks, they have turned a terrific PR opportunity into an absolute shambles. How? By banning bikes, or at least the riders’ own bikes.

Yup, in another “I don’t believe it” moment, the imbeciles in charge of the event have decided that cyclists will be bussed to the road and then loaned a bike so that “cyclists of all levels can (sic) wiz, wobble or weave on the closed road, promoting active travel and greener transport”. Frankly, I’d rather ‘wiz’ on Transport Scotland!

“Before you say anything nasty about someone, just pause for a second and browse through some really good adjectives in your head” (Ian Martin).

The move led to the online road cyclists’ website and forum, road.cc, to question “Is this the worst cycling event EVER?”. I  pretty much think so…

Sadly, it won’t happen, but…

It’s a thing that we should not let pass
So, perhaps, we should set off en masse
Like at Kinder Scout
When the walkers strode out
And took part in a large-scale trespass!

Quotes that made me laugh #51

That bright and fierce and fickle is the South, 

And dark and true and tender is the North*

Despite being a Graun-reading, socially liberal ‘bit-of-a-leftie’ I chuckled at Management’s recent despairing exhortation:

Do you always have to be an unreconstructed 1970s northern male?”

Me? A wannabe Gene Hunt?

Gene Hunt: I think you’ve forgotten who you’re talking to.
Sam Tyler: An overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline-alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding?
Gene Hunt: You make that sound like a bad thing.

Really? I think not! But not quite renaissance man either, although I have had a bit of a soft spot for Longfella’s poetry ever since he performed his 2013 poem ‘This is the Place‘ at last year’s vigil in remembrance of the Manchester Arena bombing.

In fact, Longfella (aka Tony Walsh and now surely the de facto northern laureate having gently nudged Roger McGough aside) has written more generally in praise of the north in his poem ‘Up ‘ere‘ and there is nothing of the unreconstructed northern male about it (actually, the poem is explicitly about the north-west). In it, he writes in a rather overblown way: 

… and some things run right through us just like sticks of Blackpool rock;
Courage, kindness, humour, hope.
Sometimes … it’s all we’ve got.

I suppose that’s the price of his declamatory style and can be forgiven, but now, be honest, does an unreconstructed 1970s northern male quote Tennyson and Tony Walsh in his blog posts? Nay, missus! Nay, nay and thrice nay! So, now that’s out of the way, any chance of a brew, luv?

The Princess: O Swallow, Tennyson

Whether the weather be fine …

or whether the weather be not …

It’s astonishing that with most of the UK covered by weather warnings for snow and ice over the last couple of days, we in Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland have yet to see sight of it (well, maybe on the far-distant Grampian mountains).

Clear, sunny day at Park Bridge, Deeside, yesterday

We’ve had two cold but beautifully sunny days with a third forecast for tomorrow. The Met Office weather warning infographic shows how much of the UK has been affected, with Aberdeen and its environs warning free.

Impressive, huh?

A limerick a week #64

Innocent but Profumed guilty

The early 1960s sex and spy scandal, the so-called Profumo Affair, led to the downfall of John Profumo, the UK Secretary of State for War, and, it is believed, both Harold Macmillan as the British Prime Minister and his successor’s Conservative government.

Christine Keeler, a central character in the drama that unfolded has just died at the age of 75. She was not a paragon of virtue by any means but should be remembered now as a victim and not a culprit.

Profumo successfully redeemed himself off-grid by quietly volunteering for decades at an east-end charity in London, but the reaction of the day was for the establishment to look after its own without any concern for the price paid by others.

One of those others was Stephen Ward, an osteopath and socialite who killed himself in the midst of later court proceedings that related to trumped-up charges of living off immoral earnings; a case now believed to be both a miscarriage of justice and an act of revenge in behalf of the establishment. Another was Keeler who, in the 1970s, defined her later life as surviving not living.

Growing up through the 1970s, my generation was fully aware of the scandal, where it was posited in terms of good-time girls on the make corrupting a highly thought of politician. In fact history shows it to have been down to the self-perceived entitlement of powerful men within the establishment to do as they please.

Keeler’s early life had been one of poverty, abandonment and sexual abuse. She arrived in London, vulnerable, in her teens at a time when the 1960s free-love revolution was about to take off. Her participation in that revolution, which she freely acknowledged, led to the subsequent condemnation of her as a cheap tart whereas it now bears all the hallmarks of the abuse of a woman by men in powerful positions. The recent revelations about Harvey Weinstein et al simply revisit that behavioural paradigm.

Keeler’s son put it well in a comment that he made to the political correspondent Lewis Goodall soon after her death, “I hope we now live in a time where we stop blaming women for the urges of men”, a view reinforced with clarity by the journalist Josh Lowe, “Apt time I guess for us to remember a young woman mistreated by powerful men then painted as the architect of their downfall.

The veteran writer and political commentator Harry Leslie Smith also opined tellingly: “I hope Christine Keeler found some measure of happiness in later life because she was horribly abused by men, the press and a system that favoured the entitled. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

So, it’s a serious limerick this week …

The Minister that tried to conceal a
Licentious and lewd misdemeanour
Paid for his vice
At a fraction the price
That was paid by the ill-starred Ms Keeler.

In contrast to the advantage taken of her by others, when faced with an obligation for a nude shot that Keeler didn’t really want to do, the photographer, Lewis Morley, cleared the studio of others and had her sit against the back of a chair (a copy of the classic Arne Jacobsen design). Thus was she fully naked as contractually obliged, but without any onlookers and with all the naughty bits concealed (at least that is one account – according to Keeler herself she was still partly clothed, either way Morley respected her in a way that few others in her life had).

I don’t think it is gratuitous to show it here. It is, after all, a photograph in the realm of fine art and not voyeurism and it is certainly one of the most iconic photographs of the 1960s

An image that defines the word ‘iconic’.

Captured on medium format 120 film rather than 36mm stock, ‘that’ picture was the last shot taken during a studio session to promote a film that, ironically, was never made.

Here’s the contact print from Morley’s photographic negatives:

Morley’s contact sheet of prints. Interesting isn’t it, that the iconic shot just stands out a mile from the others?