the brilliantly leaping gazelle

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It’s the little things.

It’s the little things, always the little things, which ruin an otherwise gloriously sunny day. So I’m going to write about it, in the foolishly optimistic hope that doing so will help calm the maelstrom of rage building up inside of me.

I was in the garden earlier and what with it being all sunny and warm, decided that listening to ‘The World at One’ was called for. I went back inside, got my radio, took it outside, and discovered it wasn’t working. So I went back inside, got my solar powered radio, and listened to the news. Bingo!

After the news had finished, I decided to change the batteries, despite there being a nagging doubt that my use of it couldn’t possibly have worn them out. Or could it? That’s the thing with a nagging doubt; it nags and then doubts itself

Anyway.

I opened the back of the radio and discovered that instead of there being the expected four batteries, there were in fact three. Whilst being momentarily dumbfounded, it soon dawned on me, that this could not have been an accident. I mean, one doesn’t accidentally remove the cover to the batteries and then accidentally take one out. Swearing heralded this realization.

I tried to think of a charitable explanation that might prove satisfactory, but came there none.

Possibly you’re thinking ‘He’s been quick to blame it on a person unknown.’, but consider this. At the same time as buying the radio, I also bought four rechargeable batteries for it, reasoning I could recharge them in one go. Now I’m wondering ‘What possible use could someone have with one rechargeable battery?’

It’s the little things. It’s always the little things.

The joy of mild – non-life threatening – adversity!

Of course I could write about yesterdays warning from the Environment Agency that predicted to increase our spending on climate change defences to roughly £1 billion a year. I could of course point out that this government has pledged £2.6 billion over the next 6 years for this. Additionally, the report also warned that the U.K would have to sacrifice roughly 1.5 million homes that were located in coastal areas at risk of flooding. But that would force me could to point out that whilst the Chancellor in his last Budget stated that 300,000 new homes need be built each year, that in 2017 200,000 new homes were built.

I’d then be left with no choice but to point out the shocking – but unsurprising – fact that of these new homes, the number of low cost social housing new builds was just 1,456 in 2017. In the part of London in which I live yes, there are new builds going up all the time, but are they affordable to any local people? No. Whilst the building hoardings might feature young people doing young people things yet nowhere is there any sign of any older or disabled people to be seen. Its clear who their target market is. I could write about all that in a rather withering way, of course I could, but I’m not going to.

Instead I’m going to write about my journey from my home to Greenwich yesterday. This was attempted by myself, my housemate on my adult tricycle. Whilst it looking a bit worse for wear and somewhat heavy my housemate nonetheless has many redeeming features, the bike less so! Whilst the weather forecast predicted ‘light showers’, it neglected to add that the showers were light for a monsoon season in Singapore, so with a naïve optimism that was to be soon cruelly exposed, we set off.

We’d only been cycling for 10mins when it began to rain. Now I’m not talking drizzle here; I’m talking about rain that is both bearable and highly suggestive of a lot worse to follow. That kind of rain. The kind of rain that most sensible people would take heed of and turn back. The sort of rain that might cause someone to look at their clothing and ask themselves ‘Am I prepared for what might happen?’

But no. And the main drawback of my bike is that whilst there is room for two control freaks to use it, there is only one set of controls and unfortunately I wasn’t in control of them! We ploughed on. Fortunately we were assisted in our endeavors by Transport for London who furnished us with a paper map that in the rain began to lose as much integrity asRichard Nixon. So, the omens were good.

The rain got heavier and more insistent. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet – and when anyone says they don’t wish to do something, it means they are going to do the very thing they don’t wish to do – I’ve always been of the belief that whilst you can’t control external events, you can however choose what comes out of your mouth. By this I mean that you can either inflame or diffuse a situation by what you say – or don’t say – and if you choose to say it with a self deprecating sense of humour so much the better. To achieve maximum success in this laudable endeavour, all concerned are both aware of what you are doing and also able to do it themselves. I’d like to say that my companion was so minded, like being the operative word. I of course joke (or am I?).

Anyway, we navigated our way through bits of South London until quite by chance we happened upon a quiet route – a specifically designed cycle route that is designed to afford busy roads and the like. It’s one of the joys of getting cheerfully lost. Sometimes you just get lost, but at other times you happen upon something unexpectedly wonderful, which this was. The stares of people as we passed them in the torrential rain was something to behold, or would have been had I had been able to see them clearly.  I fondly imagined that they were looking on with a mixture of awe and astonishment as we passed them by; however, the realistic part of me imagines they were thinking what sort of day release activity is this?

Anyway, we got to Greenwich, well, I say we got to Greenwich. Almost to Greenwich. So close but not really that we we were both of the opinion that the cycle route was designed by a man. The sort of man who, on a first date, takes you out, shows you a good time, so much so that you invite him back to your flat…and you have not an unreasonable expectation of how things will progress until he takes you so far and then when he’s finished he abruptly withdraws and leaves, leaving you feeling totally unfulfilled and slightly used.

We arrived at Greenwich and repaired to a nearby Starbucks for some much needed refreshments, some warmth and a toilet break. It was only then that we discovered how thoroughly soaked we were. There is nothing more dispiriting when you are cold and soaked through of needing to go the toilet with a sense of urgency that your jeans do not share! They are quite happy to be stuck to the skin making them hard to peel off and as your panic mounts so your fumbling’s become ever more incompetent and the jeans become ever more unyielding. Thankfully I managed to avoid disaster. The relief of a successful evacuation of the bladder was short lived because it struck me that the reverse of the process awaited me and whilst they were unyielding on the way down that is was nothing as to how uncooperative they were on the way back up.

So once we’d got a bit warmer and a bit drier, we set off for the return journey. It began thundering down. There is nothing like mild adversity of the non-life threatening variety to really add to one’s enjoyment of something.

Seriously.

The royal baby proves our extinction is imminent.

Like me, did you spot the bitter irony of yesterday’s announcement of a royal birth coming on the same day as a report by the United Nations, which reported that the population of the world had doubled since 1970? And will reach 11 billion by 2050?

Like me, did you see this is a yet another sign that not only does the planet need humanity’s extinction, but that we are quite literally sowing the seeds of our own demise?

The single most effective action a human can take to reduce their individual carbon footprint – and if enough humans do it, it will have an immediate and lasting impact – isn’t by adopting a vegan diet, isn’t by cutting down on air travel or by switching to an electric car. Whilst those things are good in and of themselves, and might make one feel good talking about the sacrifices one’s made at a dinner party, that’s all it will do. Humans simply to have to stop having children.

As soon as one becomes a parent, whatever fine, reasoned and logical environmental principles one had, become abandoned in the pursuit of buying things for the child. It’s an inescapable fact. Children want, and parents want an easy life. The daughter of my house-mates is immeasurably adorable, but rather than looking at it on an individual basis, but as a whole, there is no denying the fact that far from being the future, they are in fact the cause of quite possibly there not being one. From time immemorial, people may have had children in part because they believed their children’s lives would be better than their own. How then, can one trust the judgment of someone who looks of the state of the world today and thinks ‘Yeah, I’ll bring a child into that!’.

Which is why the absence of any critical analysis of the royal birth is problematic. When they were engaged, it was widely suggested by assorted flunkeys and lickspittles that Meghan Markle would be a champion, using her new status to highlight issues. What she would champion and what those issues were, we were left to imagine. Had she said, when the world’s media was hanging on her every word, “We’ve decided not to have children, for the simple reason that the worlds population continues to outpace our ability to sustain it. Humanity faces many threats, all of them of our own making, and the future looks increasingly uncertain. I hope that our decision not to have children will empower others to make the same choice.”

But no. Their desire to procreate is symptomatic of a collective blinkeredness, a refusal to grasp the sheer magnitude of the problem.

If as a species we can identify the threats to our survival, can have broad consensus on what needs to be done to mitigate those threats, but don’t do them, we don’t deserve to survive.

 

To me, it’s that simple.

Hello stable door. Meet horse!

So today is the so called ‘Peoples Vote’ march in London in support of stoping Brexit by having another referendum and thus revoking the verdict of the genuine peoples vote.

Because the march today by isn’t the people who were on the winning side after the first referendum.  It’ll full of sore losers. Imagine if the leavers had lost by 4%? Would remain voters be so tolerant of their whinging?

And what about 33% of people who could vote in the referendum, but didn’t. They’ve somehow managed to avoid being denounced as the true enemies of democracy they are!

As any politician will tell you,the easier it is for someone to protest, the more they will ignore it. Signing ann online petition about anything is as much use as as a marzipan dildo. Companies are different, they have share-holders and profits to worry about. Politicians don’t. If someone sits down, writes a letter, and then posts it, a politician might notice that. because that requires some effort. Taking to the streets is another level of effort altogether. One has to devote a chunk of free time to participate in it, but also one has to get there and back. Politicians tend to notice that, except that noticing something and then acting upon it are two very different things.

Before the first Iraq war, over a million people took to the streets of London to make their opposition to it known and what was the result? I mean apart from being a bonanza for the people who printed off the ‘Stop The War’ placards. They made out like bandits! But otherwise, aside from worthy speeches from the sort of people who always made speeches at marches, nothing. The largest march ever in British history, and it didn’t stop the war. Despite Blair being such a fan of focus groups,  nothing.

If over 17 million people, the number of people who voted to leave the E.U take part in the march, well thats something. What that something is debatable. We could always have vote on it!

(This is facile in the extreme I know, but then so is calling for a second referendum but I have a fantasy of the marchers at the child’s school sports day, and demanding that the parents race be held again, not because they didn’t win it, but because the rules weren’t properly explained, or that the winner didn’t win by enough)

 

Brexit irony

During the referendum campaign, one of arguments put forward by by the Leave campaign was that a vote to leave the E.U., would return sovereignty to parliament.

So it was with no little wonderment that I greeted Teresa Mays statement in Downing Street tonight, when she announced she was asking the EU. for an extension to enable her to get her Brexit deal through, and asserted that the public were sick of arcane procedural rules in parliament, which were used to prevent a third meaningful vote. On a deal that had been comprehensively defeated twice by parliament. That deal. Defeated in the parliament that was going to get its sovereignty back because of a leave vote. That one.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Still got a lot on my plate, but this caught my eye this morning and well, it seemed rude not to comment on it.

The BBC – along with other media outlets I presume – trumpeted the news that

The number of employed people in the UK has risen again, to a new record number of 32.7 million people between November and January, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
The 76.1% employment rate is the highest since records began in 1971.
ONS senior statistician Matt Hughes said: “The employment rate has reached a new record high, while the proportion of people who are neither working nor looking for a job – the so-called ‘economic inactivity rate’- is at a new record low.”
Employment Minister Alok Sharma said: “Today’s employment figures are further evidence of the strong economy the chancellor detailed in last week’s Spring Statement, showing how our pro-business policies are delivering record employment.”

Which on the face of it is good news, welcome as it is when this government is embroiled in a mess of its own making. But all is not what it seems. ‘Employment’ is, it seems, a ver elastic term, one is stretched to breaking point by the claim that employment is at its highest rate since 1971. Because, as the ONS helpfully clarifies

The number of people in employment in the UK is measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and consists of people aged 16 years and over who did one hour or more of paid work per week

In what universe is one hours work a week employment? If I had time, I might provide figures for the Tex Credits bill, which is, after all, a government subsidy for employee’s for the low  wages paid to them by their employers.

But I don’t.

Whilst you were distracted…

I’ve got a lot to distract me as well, to be honest. So if this post isn’t as polished as it might be, well I hope you get the gist.

On ‘The World this Weekend’ earlier was the news that around 32,000 former civil servants had had their pensions overpaid, but that they wouldn’t have to pay this money back. Which is nice.

This generosity isn’t usually extended to people in receipt of benefits, which is, after all what a pension is.

An example being,

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants are having 40% of their benefit deducted to pay back outstanding debts.

Labour MP Ruth George said the high level of deductions from payments “will see more people with no option but to go into debt”.

But figures obtained by Ms George show just how many Universal Credit claimants are having major chunks of their benefit deducted every month.

In January, 6% of all Universal Credit full service claims had 40% deducted from their standard allowance, according to figures released in response to a written parliamentary question.

DWP also says a small percentage of less than 0.5% of claims had total deductions of more than 40%.

One of worst things about Brexit is that it has dominated pretty much the entire domestic political agenda for the last two years and the recent shenanigans in parliament have proved conclusive proof that yes indeed, we do have the mutha of all parliaments.

When a disabled toilet is disabled..

Remember Sunday?

Of course you do, it being literally a sun day, the first proper weekend of warm weather and all. I certainly do! But not for the reason you might think. I invite you all to read about my experience I can now think about with a mixture of detached calmness and the absurdly comic, which I was so not feeling when it was actually happening.

My partner – the BFJ -and I set off for Trent Park, it being not only very large and wild, not only with good access, but also not far from my Mum’s house, which we heading to later. And as anyone who read my post about cycling to the Southbank will be aware, the one thing I hate more than crowds, are crowds with children in them. There were loads of them there, but fortunately they were concentrated by the café next to the car park, and equally fortunately Trent Park is so large that they were easily diluted.

Anyway.

There is a toilet block at the edge of the car park, and the BFJ needed to avail herself of these. As I was just fine and dandy, I offered to wait outside but she felt somewhat embarrassed about using it herself. So I said I’d go in with her. She unlocked the door with my RADAR key, which I keep for occasions such as this – because some disabled toilets are locked to prevent misuse – and we went in.

It’s at this point I’m going to veer off down Tangent Street, but it’s important you understand what informs this. When one is in the heady first few months of a relationship, and you do all you can preserve an air of mystique about yourself. It’s not that you are acting so much as making every effort to present the best possible version of yourself to them. Of course you do. It’s completely in your interests to do so, as the goal is to keep having regular and energetic horizontal gymnastics for as long as possible.

But the effort required gradually becomes too much. The best version of you has an expiry date, but it isn’t sudden. You just don’t become a slob overnight, I mean they don’t go the bed one night with the Brad Pitt from ‘Fight Club’ and wake up the next morning with the Brad Pitt from ‘The Big Short”.

It’s like a battery slowly draining, you feel increasingly comfortable around them but you ease yourself into revealing yourself to them by degree’s, farting being the best example of this, being the one that everyone knows. When the best version of you is running things, you’d never dream of farting in front of them. You hold them in because you’d rather risk internal organ damage than external organ non-damage and but eventually there’ll comes a time when you’ll just let rip. Then you’ll be commenting admiringly on their pungency. Dutch ovens, contact farts, and stealth farts follow soon after. The same thing happens with swearing. And other bodily functions.

Everyone does it. Their quirks might differ but the effect is the same. I myself frequently stare at a tissue after I’ve blown my nose in with all the curious fascination of a patient doing a Rorschach inkblot test.

(At the bottom of this post is a clip of Micky Flanagan expelling how swearing is an indicator of how likely a relationship is to be successful. Be warned though, it contains language that some people might find highly offensive from the start and throughout! Just so you know.)

And we’re back now, in the disabled toilet in Trent Park. After doing what people do in toilets, we try to get out. The door has other ideas.. The door handle won’t open the door, and as the BFJ wrestles with it I think ‘This is a door handle made for a council door. Is it going to well made or is it going to rubbish. How much wrestling can it take before it snaps off in her hand unexpectedly like my patience will snap if this happens’, but wisely do not say.

Nevertheless, the fact is we are trapped, locked inside a sealed windowless room, but fortunately, help is at hand, in the form of a sign with an emergency contact number. We call it and eventually a person answers it. Unfortunately, whilst she said all the right things you’d expect someone in that situation to say – apologies basically – she was not encumbered with common sense. Could she give the cafe a call and ask them to help? No, she didn’t have their ‘phone number and Googling it didn’t occur to her either.The nearest park ranger was thirty minutes away, but the people who it had happened to earlier in the day had attracted the attention of passers-by and slipped the key under the door to them.

Yes, this same thing had happened to someone else and no one had though a sign on the door alerting people to this was a good idea.

Worse was yet to come. I know you’re thinking ‘How could this possibly get worse?’ but it does. After some time, we attracted a passer-bys attention, slipped the key under door, and they released us from our enforced but brief incarceration. Thinking a sign on the door alerting people to the very real possibility of them getting trapped inside, the BFJ went over to the nearby ‘Go Ape’ adventure centre to get sign made. She came back with some shocking news, because when she’d explained what the sign was for, she was told ‘Oh not again, it’s the fourth time this week that’s happened.’

You might understand it happening on the day and the council being on the backfoot. Had the park not been as busy as it was, who knows we’d have been stuck there? What about if someone was alone and couldn’t get a ‘phone signal? What then? But for it to keep happening, to the extent the BFJ got the reaction she did and for them still not to have done anything, well that’s taking the piss!

 

This morning brought us the news that another former Labour MP has somehow confused his anus with his mouth and was busy polluting the airways with the arrant nonsense that only our self-serving turncoat can muster. Explaining his decision to quit the Labour Party. Ian Austin MP was given to declaim that the Labour Party was now an extremist party and was controlled by the trade unions. Part of me thought as he no conception whatsoever of Labour party history?

The Labour Party was formed essentially by the trade unions as a bulwark against the worst onslaughts of the capitalist classes against the workers. Up until then workers had no rights in parliament. Now there was a party whose main aim was advocating on their behalf. The clue is in the name; the Labour Party!

Similarly, when he says the Labour Party is now extremist, part of me thinks on what sort of drugs must one be on to think the Labour Party extremist, and more importantly, where can I get some?

Under Tony Blair’s woeful leadership Labour ditched Clause Four – basically the part of its manifesto that promised to bring any privately owned utilities back into public ownership – in a bid to make it more of centrist party, more popular and less, well, socialist. Under Corbyn the Labour Party has rediscovered its proper socialist agenda, and the fact that it increased its the share of the vote at the last election was proof of its manifesto’s popularity in the country. Unfortunately it wasn’t popular enough to secure a government.

It was however the manifesto that Ian Austin was elected to parliament on and if he had any decency at all he’d resign his seat and trigger a by-election but as I’ve noted here before the very people who are calling for a second referendum believe in democracy only when it suits them.

No doubt there will be more quitting of parties, more soul searching and even more hypocrisy to follow from Labour MP’s who are only red when they’re embarrassed.

How to ruin a bike ride…

Yesterday reconfirmed something I, and those that know me, know only too well, Namely that I’m a misanthrope And a curmudgeon. Exactly what the difference is, or where one ends and the other begins, is something of a mystery to me. Be that as it may, I’m either one or the other; possibly both at the same time and have been so ever since I was a child. Because as you all know, childhood is where we find the clues for all adult behaviours.

I wasn’t born with a protracted loathing of most other people, in my case; it was born out of continued experience of and exposure to other people. I mention this because the worst form of transport for a misthanthropic curmudgeon is a side-by-side adult tricycle, a discovery I painfully found out yesterday. I brought a one some time ago and yesterday being a sunny day it was suggested that we take it for a spin and head down to the Southbank. It all seemed like a great idea. Getting to the Southbank was quite easy thanks to a combination of back roads and designated cycle lanes. That was the good bit of the journey.

The worst part of the journey was passers-by incessant habit of hurling pleasantries in our direction as we passed them. Cheerful exhortations that they seemed to think were somehow welcome to hear. My displeasure was written all over my face and spoken into the ear of my unfortunate companion, who had no chance of escape and possibly because of this circumstance, made only muted comments, aside from that is waving at these hooligans and encouraging them.

Arriving at the Southbank was even worse, it was half term so of course the Southbank was crowded with vermin, I mean children. I did point out to my companion that when I refer to children as vermin, I mean most of the children in the world that are not her daughter. Again, she didn’t pass comment on this.

Perhaps wisely, being as how parents are biologically hard-wired to imagine the fruit of their loins as not rotten and certainly not the seeds of humanity’s destruction.