Of Trains, Boats, Brexit, Bombing and Neanderthal Attitudes

My short ride to the mainline station turned into a slow crawl across the capital. In theory, taking a train should have meant a fourteen minute journey that circumvented the clogged roads at rush hour. The driver kept as informed with a practised and resigned calm; red lights delaying our arrival at Blackfriars; a train ahead with technical problems preventing us from reaching Farringdon. I had expected to have time to kill at King’s Cross, maybe buy a coffee, admire the roof for the nth time. Instead I raced over the road from St Pancras International, found my train on the departure board, wove through the crowds and made it with just two minutes to spare.

Older Nephew is meeting me I hope at Cambridge station. We’re off to winterise das Boot, which means going to the pump out at Ely and probably lunching in a pub there, returning to the marina, emptying the water tank and adding anti-freeze to the engine. I’m hoping it’s more relaxing than the first part of the journey.

We shall doubtless talk Brexit and Trump. Now, most of you will be aware that there was a referendum in June over whether to stay in or leave the EU. I, like 48% of those who voted, wanted to remain. The question was a simple stay or leave. But somehow the government led by the redoubtable Theresa May, has decided that parliament should have no say in the niceties of how we leave the EU, what our leavetaking should be. No, she says, there will not be a discussion along the way, The Country Has Spoken and we must respect that decision. OK, fair enough, it was a slender majority, but it was a majority and much as I should prefer to remain an EU citizen to the end of my days, I reluctantly accept that is not to be. But people did not vote on immigration. Or if they did, they were answering a different question to the one asked. They did not vote on remaining in or out if the single market; on freedom of movement or pan-European health care. Some people will have voted so the 350 million pounds claimed by the leave campaign could go to our beleaguered and beloved NHS. Funny how that money does not seem to play any part in the post Brexit world. Instead leading Conservatives are talking about stopping foreigners taking ‘our’ jobs. The proposal by Amber Rudd that businesses should report on how many foreign passport holders work for them was roundly denounced and dropped amid assurances that we had misunderstood. The fact that this was background to my reading of The Hare With Amber Eyes made it all the more sinister for me. If you don’t know the book I urge you to read it. Aunt Nessa, who died nearly two years ago, sent it to me and it has sat on my shelves until now, a little bit of unsuspected golden treasure. It’s a memoir by Edmund de Waal, a ceramicist based in London. He is descended from a banking family. A Jewish banking family. The hare in the title is a netsuke, one of a collection made by his ancestor Charles Ephrussi in the nineteenth century. Continue reading

Of Freecycle, Political Pontificating, the New Everyone, and Thank Goodness for Artists Like Yinka Shonibare

When Freecycle works it’s brilliant. When people who say they want your stuff then start faffing about and saying they can’t come at the time you’ve arranged, it’s a pain.

Last night I put two items up. For one, the texts came thick and fast. I offered it to the first person who gave the information I asked for, and could come at one of the times specified. The other had a similar quick but more muted response. Great. Both items to go tonight.

Then I got a text from the first person saying she had to work late and couldn’t come. No worries, I replied, there are others waiting. That’s when the faffing began. People saying they could come at times when I shan’t be here; people giving me more details about their home lives than I could ever want to read. I crossed them off the list and went to the next person. Hurrah, a responsible man who turned up when he said he would, was polite and pleased to get a second hand digital photo frame that I had given to Aunt several years ago. He’s going to give it to his mum with a USB full of photos. Brilliant.

In the meantime I texted the person who was to collect the other item and asked them to confirm they would be here between six and seven. Oh no, came the reply, I have to work tonight. I can come tomorrow lunchtime. Had I not texted I presume she wouldn’t have bothered to tell me at all and I should have been hanging around wondering when I could start making the dinner. I didn’t feel up to more texts, so I shall readvertise in a week or so and hope I get someone reliable.

On the news I saw snippets of Theresa May’s speech, and learned that UKIP has yet again gone beyond and below anything considered normal in political behaviour. Under a banner saying The Party That Works For Everyone the various speakers at the Tory party Conference are redefining what everyone means. And it seems to exclude a lot of us: Remainers; foreigners who have unsportingly been taking those jobs people armed with a British birth certificate won’t touch with a barge pole; people who want evidence and facts in debate rather than post-truth politics. Someone, I don’t remember whom, talked about putting the needs of the indigenous people of this country first. That’s going to be tricky. I’m not sure there are any indigenous people here. They must have disappeared around the first ice age. The Queen, whose European heritage makes my own seem quite tame, may be looking to relocate somewhere on mainland Europe where us mongrels are more welcome. Continue reading

Return of the Cat Woman

When I saw Octavia on Sunday I mentioned how strange I found it that I have become a go-to person about cats in the neighbourhood. I’m sure I don’t know more than the average cat owner, though my addiction to the various pet programmes on the television has taught me a lot, and living with Cat was an education in itself. When the penny finally dropped that Cat was a permanent fixture rather than a temporary self-invited guest, I borrowed books about cats from the local library, books that are no longer in the collection, read about nutrition, and general cat care. That’s about it.

Octavia reckoned it was because I have been involved in a few cat rescues locally. Funnily enough I had been thinking about Trevor earlier in the day. Then there was Odysseus, Izzy and, of course, Cookie.

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Of Vitamin Paste for Cats, Family News, Brexit (again), GBBO, and the Absence of Ethics

A quickie post as I am off to enjoy supper with Octavia shortly. We usually eat together on a Sunday and catch up with some of each other’s news. it’s always chez Octavia as she has more room than I do, so I get to catch up with the Grey Ninja too. Tonight I shall be taking the said ninja some cat vitamin paste,. I got it with the reward points I have accumulated on the one of the sites where I buy MasterB’s food. It is supposed to prevent hairballs, something I have yet to see MasterB produce, and which the Grey Ninja, being a breed (Russian Blue – her pedigree name rivals that of the Tsar) that barely sheds, is unlikely to suffer with.

The blurb said it was a taste no cat could resist and recommended it for when you have to medicate your pet. Great I thought, that should make the worming tablet less traumatic all round. But MasterB finds it all to easy to resist. I put a centimetre or so on a saucer for him as a treat. It’s still there twenty-four hours later, loooking like a short, rather fat, slug. Maybe the GN will find it more to her taste.

I became a great aunt, which was very exciting. I received an ecstatic text from Nephew who is obviously a very thrilled parent. Pictures followed, including, finally, one of his daughter with her eyes open. This good news has been tempered by news that the eldest son of my cousin Tom, also called Tom, is in a coma following a cardiac arrest. Cousin is keeping me in the loop, but they have been warned there will be brain damage. He’s forty-one, married with two little girls. Though I am not religious, I went into a church yesterday and filled in a card asking the congregation to pray for him. These are the moments when you feel utterly powerless, and prayer is the one thing you can offer.

Bake Off continued and one of my favourite bakers left the tent. Don’t worry Nadbugs, I shan’t tell you who it was. The shocking news that GBBO is to leave the BBC for Channel 4 has been a welcome distraction from what isn’t so far happening with Brexit. Some days I can almost convince myself it won’t happen at all. Then Theresa May goes and announces that Article 52 will be triggered by March 2017. My heart sinks to my boots. Does the Prime Minister and her Cabinet have a plan? If so, they have communicated precious little about it to the British electorate. BoJo said something the other day that was immediately contradicted by Number 10 – a nice example of a metonym I am sure Octavia will agree – so I just hope Armando Iannucci, Guy Jenkin and Andy Hamilton are sitting with sharpened pencils ready to satirise the whole thing and keep me off the anti-depressants. Continue reading

Strange Times

I saw Michael Gove yesterday. He saw me too, but I doubt if he’s blogging about it. He wouldn’t know me from a hole in the road. It was at Westminster tube station, late in the afternoon and it looked like he was heading into the Palace of Westminster. Maybe he’s got some prep to do before next week’s party conference and decided to do it when fewer people were about. I don’t know what his popularity ratings are, but I’d be surprised if people are rushing to sit with him in the canteen.

He didn’t look great; rather pudgy, as though he’s been comfort eating. Ah well. It’s not every day you do your bit to lead your country to a disastrous referendum vote and then find yourself voted out of power. I am indebted to Ken Clarke, words I never thought to type or say, for his pithy summing up of the situation in which we find ourselves. It is bizarre that I and people like me who voted remain are now hoping and praying that we can make leaving the EU work, while those who voted leave snipe from the sidelines and demand that the things they thought they voted be enacted in every tiny detail. Ken is a heavyweight survivor of the Thatcher era. Not my favourite politician, though perhaps I should be careful what I say as his London pad isn’t so very far from my own abode. However, according to Sky News, this is what he said.
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Gun Culture and the Ginger Ninja Calendar 2017

Given I have rather more work to complete than is good for me, I have had a rather gentle day. I caught up with some of yesterday’s paper. There were thoughtful pieces, an interview with Jeremy Corbyn I could not bring myself to read, a piece about very small gardens I have put aside to read later, comment about the presidential race in the US. This picture caught my eye.



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